Neil DeGrasse Tyson and the Sexual Witch Hunt

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Neil DeGrasse Tyson is one of the latest public figures facing allegations of sexual misconduct – has it truly become a witch hunt?

First, I would like to point out that suggesting we are getting into witch hunt territory is not a statement about women making allegations in the first place. It is entirely about how the entertainment industry and society as a whole is reacting to those allegations.

In the case of DeGrasse Tyson, based on what information is currently available, it appears that we really are looking at a “he said, she said” situation. Legally, that can mean that no one will ever know the complete truth, or there will never be any tangible or witness evidence to prove the allegations.

While it is important to listen to women when they make allegations of sexual misconduct, we also need to spend some time thinking about what that actually means. Right now, it’s becoming a highly subjective scale of behaviors that are solely defined by the feelings of the women involved. Basically, if someone says or does something to or around a woman, it makes her feel uncomfortable in any way, and it can be construed to have even the slightest sexual connotation, it can be called “sexual misconduct.”

That means really bad pick-up lines at cocktail parties could fall under this category. Or, in the case of DeGrasse Tyson, exceedingly clumsy flirting could be included. (I am not addressing the allegation of sexual assault during his college years in this description.)

It is good that we’re starting to have conversations about appropriate behavior and interpersonal relationships, but immediately leaping to punishing people for past alleged wrong-doings before there are any investigations definitely isn’t acceptable. What is making it worse is the fact that we are littering our media outlets with headlines about these situations without providing real context for the next generations. Bluntly, I am tired of hearing my teenage son tell me that he is avoiding dating in high school not only because he doesn’t want the drama, but also because he doesn’t want to end up like one of those guys in the headlines because he tried to grope a girl in a movie theater.

Now, if we’ve reached the point where we think that the teenage rites of passage that include “testing the sexual waters” are wrong, then this “guilty as soon as there’s an allegation” attitude is fine. But, no matter what, if we don’t start shifting the conversation toward teaching our children what is appropriate behavior in schools, then all of this is for naught.

We won’t change how women and men treat each other unless we stop thinking that we can rely on parents to teach their kids about sex. The men who are being accused of misdeeds now come from generations that didn’t have sex-ed that included anything beyond the basic anatomy and avoidance of disease and hopefully pregnancy. They didn’t learn how not to be a creep. They didn’t learn how to talk to women in a positive way. There weren’t any lessons on how to ask for permission to engage in sexual activities. There definitely weren’t any classes on reading body language and other non-verbal cues. It’s also worth noting that they were raised in households during the era when this nation generally didn’t have laws against spousal rape, so it’s entirely possible that they literally learned bad behavior in the home.

That said, we also have to remember that many of these women making allegations were not raised to know there is such a thing as personal boundaries in the workplace. They worked in an industry that has a long standing reputation for encouraging women to “sleep their way to the top”. Yes, we are trying to put an end to that, but it’s not going to happen overnight.

Now, if it becomes clear that DeGrasse Tyson truly did do what has been alleged, then it’s time to talk about punishing him. The same should apply to everyone else. But, we really need to avoid going this route:

via GIPHY

Yes, that means some people who really did bad things may end up walking away unscathed. But, that’s the deal we made with our justice system and society in general. There are reasons why we say “innocent, until proven guilty”. Operating under the presumption of guilt is how they do things in authoritarian regimes, not here. Also, ask yourselves, how do you prove that you didn’t do something when there were no witnesses other than your accuser? We’re all appalled by laws overseas that insist a woman must have a few men bear witness for them when they accuse someone of rape. But, we’re fine with the idea of saying men must come up with witnesses to prove they didn’t rape someone?

Rape is wrong. Sexual harassment is wrong. Punishing people without due process is wrong. Failing to teach our young how to stop the cycle of sexual violence is the greatest wrong we can do right now. You want it to stop? Work on that.

As for DeGrasse Tyson? Maybe the networks worrying about whether or not they should air his programs should just put them out there. Let the viewers decide. Go back to the negotiating table with him, and have him sign a contract stating that he won’t benefit financially from his work to date anymore if the allegations are proven to be true. After all, that’s really what this is about, isn’t it? It’s all about the money. If he did wrong, let him pay for it with cash. If the networks really want to look good, give money that would have gone to proven perpetrators to their victims. Leave the programming out there. If the people know the guilty stars aren’t getting the paycheck if they watch, they might still turn it on. If they know the victims are getting the profits, maybe that will show what the public really thinks about supporting them.

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Neil DeGrasse Tyson and the Sexual Witch Hunt

Trump, His Wall, and the American Nightmare

Trump wants his wall, and his current $5.6 billion temper tantrum is an object lesson in playing to the lowest common denominator in American politics.

When I was a child in the late 1970’s, I would regularly visit family around Pittsburgh who made their living in the construction industry. More than a few times, I would meet workers who could barely speak English who were on the work teams my family members would supervise. Invariably, their stories would be about coming north in March to find work, stay until October or November, and return home with money to make it through the winter months. They would talk about cousins who did the same kind of thing in other parts of America, only they were farmers. I knew they came here illegally, but I also knew that part of the reason why my own family was able to make as much money as they did was because of the low wages these workers were willing to accept for low level labor.

Today, I know some people might accuse my family and their employers of being racist for taking advantage of illegal migrant workers, while others would say we are part of the illegal immigration problem. But, my family is an illustration of how this works, a fact that even Trump should be fully aware.

Poor Politicking

Right now, we are watching a battle of political wills between the House and the Oval Office, and as is all too often the case, both sides are wrong. Failing to fix our immigration system while leaving the border as it is now is just as wrong as trying to build a wall (again while failing to fix our immigration system.)

Like it or not, there are many jobs in this country that need to be done at exceedingly low rates, if companies want Americans to be able to afford the end products, whether its fresh produce or buildings, among other things. Before 9/11, President George W. Bush was acutely aware of this, and was preparing to approach Congress with plans for a guest worker program – something that probably would have looked a lot like what Sanctuary Cities were meant to be. It either would have protected migrant workers whose only crime was crossing the border without a visa, or it would have given short-term visas out to anyone who simply wanted to fill low wage labor jobs on a seasonal basis. No matter what, it would have exempted employers from meeting minimum wage requirements with these workers, otherwise it would have defeated the purpose.

The Politics of Fear

That all ended on 9/11, because our focus shifted to keeping terrorists out of our country. Since then, the fear has been kept alive, but now it’s being expanded to include criminals and drug cartels south of our border. Those fears are both of a statistically small group of people – the media and the nature of digital news is why it’s been easy to lionize these threats.

Toddler Tantrums

Now, we have Trump saying he wants to build his wall, and the temper tantrum over it is heading toward the two week mark. He says he doesn’t want to look foolish by cutting a deal – something he sold himself on for decades – but the fact is that this tantrum is what truly makes him a fool.

Reality Checks

First, it’s insane to think that the $5.6 billion he’s fighting over now will be the total bill, no matter how much anyone says it will be. If he would be able to build a wall along the entire border (he can’t, without bending laws of physics and international laws surrounding waterways), there is no way it would only cost that sum. Just the prototype panels cost $2.4 to $4 million each, and putting all of them together wouldn’t cover more than a mile. Don’t get your calculators out to start figuring out how much it really could cost because the prototypes were erected on open land. The cost will be far greater because Trump’s wall will have to be built through unforgiving territory that hasn’t had any man-made barriers all along because the topography did the job on its own. Also, bear in mind that no matter how much Trump wishes it so, the places with the highest levels of illegal crossings can’t have barriers at all anyway because they are waterways. Sure, he could build a wall on the US shorelines, but it would need to be far better than any of those prototypes since it would need to withstand flooding in wet seasons. We’re not even going to get into issues with border towns and businesses straddling the line, and how devastating a wall would be to those residents.

Hypocrisy Reigns

Nancy Pelosi has said that building a wall is immoral, and maybe that’s only partly right. But, it’s not about what she thinks. Trump is the embodiment of hypocrisy with this, because we already should know he has repeatedly reaped the benefits of cheap illegal labor. That includes laborers for Trump Tower itself, and maintenance of his property. Maybe Trump thinks he should get a pass for the Trump Tower workers, since they weren’t from south of the border – they were Polish. But, he definitely doesn’t get a pass on the housekeepers.

American Character

Pelosi was wrong to say that a wall was immoral primarily because she truly doesn’t understand the level of hatred Trump has ginned up across the nation. He has made an art form of playing to the lowest common denominator, and has exploited the hatred of the “other” at every opportunity. We used to be the nation that bought really bad music because it would help pay to feed starving children in Africa. Now, we’re the country that says starving children and families from Venezuela are hell bent on destroying us by attacking our border. It’s true that there have been skirmishes between rock throwing desperate people and heavily armed members of our military, but if anyone is going to hard sell that the rock wielders are a security threat, they need a vacation in a padded room.

The irony here is that at least a few conservatives in the US are taking this opportunity to point out the failures of socialism in Venezuela, while simultaneously playing like Seinfeld’s soup server when it comes to the opportunities offered by freedom. It is yet another example of the cement ceiling mentality that believes the US has reached its apex, and cannot grow business anymore. Or it really is just racism, if these people choose to ignore the statistics that show a majority of immigrants tend to build businesses in America – all we have to do is let them do it. Also, it’s worth noting that sooner or later, someone will probably point out that the dramatic drop in migrant workers from the south taking US dollars back home really did contribute to the collapse of Venezuela, and is part of the financial woes of other Central and South American countries.

The Reality of a Wall

But, back to Trump and his dreams of a wall. Sadly, there are still people out there who are picturing something majestic like this:

The reality is more like this:

Either way, it’s important to recognize that walls aren’t a one-way device. Both China and Berlin have used their walls to keep people in their boundaries. It is foolhardy to assume that the same is not true in the US, especially now as we are dealing with a government shutdown in order for Trump to get money to build one. Doubt that? Try applying for a passport today. You can’t, because Trump’s temper tantrum over the wall has caused that office to be closed.

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Trump, His Wall, and the American Nightmare

Congress is in Session – Hypocrisy Time!

As the 116th Congress gavels into session, it’s time to think about the level of hypocrisy we’re going to see in the coming weeks and months.

If you were paying attention at all, beyond the obvious attempts to end the government shutdown, the House is focusing on a wish list of legislation. Most of the items will be dead on arrival in the Senate, but that doesn’t mean anyone should be dismissing these ideas immediately. Two items in particular shouldn’t be dismissed by Republicans just because they are coming from across the aisle.

10 years of tax returns

Tempting as it might be to continue to “protect the president’s tax returns” game, Republicans need to seriously think about this bill in terms of future Democrat nominees. Picture a future with Mark Zuckerberg or Oprah Winfrey running for the presidency. Seriously, this does need to be considered, since we’re dealing with a former game show host in the Oval Office right now – sorry, but it is the truth.

So, do we really want to see future candidates of that ilk managing to hide their financial dealings when they run for the highest office in the land? No?

Like all legislation, it is important to remember that it will be the law regardless of who is in power, until it is repealed or rendered null by the courts. (Just a hint, but it’s not likely that this kind of law will be considered unconstitutional.) It might sting a bit now, but failing to pass something like this soon could have disastrous effects in the future. If Zuckerberg and Oprah didn’t scare you as examples, think someone like Cher!

Protect the Mueller!

More than a few Republicans have been salivating at the thought of shutting down the Mueller investigation into “Russian collusion” by Trump. Right now, it is important to remember procedure on the Hill. The first shot has already been fired across the bow, even before Nancy Pelosi was officially elected Speaker of the House.

She said impeachment isn’t out of the question.

Scoff if you like, but impeachment is still similar to our regular criminal court system. The House starts the ball rolling, and arguably takes up the job of the prosecutor. There is discovery (i.e., investigation) initiated by that chamber, and then it is turned over to the Senate which theoretically acts as judge and jury.

So, if Republicans kill the Mueller investigation before it is done, they are just begging for Pelosi and the Democrats in the House to start impeachment proceedings. Sure, they might not do it, but is it really worth the gamble? If Mueller is stopped, the House could just tell him to continue anyway, but this time as the start of the impeachment process. That means they could also severely expand the scope of the investigation. (Just a hint here, but that’s something the Republicans really don’t want to happen.)

Confused? Angry? Don’t feel bad about that. Those are just typical reactions to the realities of politicking on the Hill. It’s not pretty. It never was, and never will be. But, at least now it has become somewhat predictable. No matter what, it boils down to political hypocrisy.

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Congress is in Session – Hypocrisy Time!

Netflix, Censorship and Saudi Arabia

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Netflix pulled an episode of “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj” from distribution in Saudi Arabia.

Viewers can still see it in America (and probably just about everywhere else in the world with Netflix), and don’t feel terrible if you weren’t aware of the fact that Saudi Arabia has Netflix.

The good folks at Netflix have been quick to point out that they were just avoiding legal difficulties in the Kingdom, and perhaps no one should blame them for wanting to avoid fines and imprisonment. We won’t get into the weeds of jurisdiction and enforcement, right?

Now, Minhaj definitely didn’t pull any punches in the episode on Saudi Arabia, and offered quite a lot of information that should make many Americans pause.

It’s all about the money.

Remember that phrase. American presidents, including the current one, have maintained good relations with Saudi Arabia because of oil and guns. That means America is just fine with killing journalists, subjugating women, and censorship. We’re also accepting of leaders who kill, imprison, torture, and maim to gain power.

It’s all about the money.

Of course, because of the nature of these things, the offending episode that Netflix graciously pulled from their rotation in Saudi Arabia is enjoying a great deal of popularity on the web. Minhaj said it would, and it truly was predictable. Remember “The Last Temptation of Christ”? If it wasn’t for the Pope saying not to see it, you probably wouldn’t.

But, I digress.

It’s all about the money.

Why in the world would Netflix decide it was a good idea to bow to Saudi Arabia on content? Why didn’t they just stick to their guns, and tell the Kingdom, “Sure, we’ll kill that episode, and our service in total!”?

If you didn’t previously know that Netflix was serving entertainment to Saudi Arabians, right about now is when you’re going to wonder why you hadn’t. It turns out that Netflix did around a million dollars worth of business in Saudi Arabia in 2017, and at least one forecast indicates that they can expect to make nearly $10 million there by the end of 2020.

Maybe at that point Netflix will consider fines for offensive content just part of their operating budget, right? Then they just have to figure out how to avoid seeing any of their executives imprisoned. But, maybe it would be worth it…

Image: YouTube/Patriot Act

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Netflix, Censorship and Saudi Arabia

Debauchery and Debate – Episode 4 – Halloween Edition

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Halloween is a week away, so we’re in holiday mode. Yes, we were away for a couple weeks, thanks to traveling and illness, but now we’re back, talking about favorite Halloween movies, crazy wildlife, costume faux pas, and sex! Take a listen!

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Debauchery and Debate – Episode 4 – Halloween Edition

Learning Literacy from Drag Queens?

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A middle school in Colorado decided to invite Jessica L’Whor, a drag queen, to speak with kids about life, careers, and literacy. And then people’s heads caught on fire.

No, there wasn’t talk about sex. The name “Jessica L’Whor” wasn’t used, because it was admittedly inappropriate for the situation, so she was simply “Ms. Jessica.” And, the administration didn’t bother to warn parents about this scheduled appearance. After the fact, the school principal said that if the school ever decided to have such a controversial guest again, she would warn parents ahead of time so they could request that their precious little angels be excluded.

Now, this event has been mentioned in the press as a “career day,” which it wasn’t. It was a literary day, which presumably means that the guests were talking with students about the importance of literacy. One might question the point, and more importantly, exactly what a drag queen could contribute to these discussions, but c’est la vie. The reality of the situation is that we have yet another school getting into trouble over “sex” for reasons.

Sure, they probably won’t do this again. However, if they did and those warnings went out to the parents, yes the kids who would be excluded will either figure out a way to “forget” turning in that note from home or they will resent their parents. Why? The simple answer is the last thing any middle school wants to viewed as is “uncool” (or whatever term they’re using for the same.)

Let’s also be at least a little realistic here. Out of the parents who complained about this, one can wonder how many bothered to specifically block RuPaul’s Drag Race from their televisions. Well, maybe it wasn’t necessary, because maybe some of those parents are the ones who don’t allow television watching at all in the first place. The point is that no matter how much any parent wants to shelter their kids from the world, the fact remains that the world is still out there. It’s filled with good and bad things, hazards and helpful situations, and yes, it has drag queens. Now, if you’re thinking that your kids will suddenly decide to become a transvestite just because they saw one in school, you have some serious issues. First, you’re assuming that whatever you are attempting to teach your kids is being absolutely ignored. Second, you’re not giving your kids credit for being capable of thinking things through before they decide to do something. Finally, you’re assuming that every single interest your kids will ever have in their lives will last forever.

Now, if all of that were true, we really would be a great deal of trouble as a society. Otherwise, just remember, kids tend to want to do whatever their parents say they shouldn’t, and kids are naturally curious about everything. Freud and Jung figured that out a long time ago. Perhaps that should be a required lesson for all adults before they become parents.

Image: Facebook/Jessica L’Whor

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Learning Literacy from Drag Queens?

Ted Cruz and His Re-election Woes

Many conservatives, particularly on social media, practically brag about the fact that they ignore the media if it’s just a little left-leaning. So, it’s safe to say many of them wouldn’t know Ted Cruz’s re-election campaign isn’t doing as well as it could.

When outlets like Alternet can run legitimate stories about someone like Cruz making a major strategic mistake, “Houston, there is a problem.” Like it or not, that left-wing website was spot on when it pointed out that Cruz not appearing on CNN for a debate was literally handing his opposition, Beto O’Rourke, a huge advantage.

CNN already had the hour blocked out for a debate, so they had no problem converting it into a townhall for O’Rourke. Alternet was absolutely right when they suggested O’Rourke will use that time to build himself up, and more importantly, tear down Cruz. Just pointing out to Texans that Cruz couldn’t be bothered to show up for a debate implies that he isn’t particularly concerned with his constituents.

But, this isn’t the first time anyone has pointed out that Cruz’s campaign might be in trouble. Last month Rick Tyler, a former Cruz campaign strategist, said on MSNBC that his former boss might be in trouble this time around. That’s something else that would fall under the radar of those conservatives who are determined to ignore left-wing journalism.

No matter what, it’s difficult to say anything except that Cruz might lose to O’Rourke, and the likely reason for it will be hubris. In this case, both Cruz and conservatives who are choosing to ignore what is happening on the left in Texas are guilty. We’ll just have to wait and see in November if it proves to be a politically fatal mistake.

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Ted Cruz and His Re-election Woes

Debauchery and Debate – Ep. 3 Taylor Gets Gritty!

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If you’re not scared, Taylor’s co-host really is – okay, maybe not. But, you have to admit, he’s definitely Gritty! In this week’s Debauchery and Debate, there’s a little more talk about the television premieres, and The House with a Clock in Its Walls. More importantly, find out what movie Taylor is promising to view! Throw in a sex robot brothel that’s doomed, and a special anniversary, and you’ve got it.

A little hint about that last one here:

In case you didn’t notice, yes we are on iTunes! Stay tuned for more options to listen!

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Debauchery and Debate – Ep. 3 Taylor Gets Gritty!

Molly Ringwald and Rethinking Her Films

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Of course, with the #MeToo movement, it was inevitable that many parts of our pop culture would be re-examined through the lens of today. Molly Ringwald decided to do that with her own films, while talking with NPR this past weekend.

One thing that was mentioned, not by Ringwald, but by the writer of the article, was a specific line from Sixteen Candles.

“I’ve got Caroline in the bedroom right now passed out cold. I could violate her 10 different ways if I wanted to.”

That was from Jake Ryan, the guy Ringwald’s character wanted throughout the film, and who was played by Michael Schoeffling.

Seeing those words absent context definitely is a little disturbing, however it’s important to note one word in that line – “could.” By that point in the movie, it was abundantly obvious that Schoeffling’s character wasn’t at all interested in the girl in question. Just that simple fact makes that troubling line far less menacing. Now, you can start having your issues about that same girl apparently taking the virginity of the “nerd” who drove her away from the party that night if you like.

The point is, even looking at this film through the hyper-sensitive lens we’ve created today, it is still really not that bad. Sure, Ringwald has her reservations, but she’s looking at it as a mother of teens now. Honestly, I’d be wondering if there was something very wrong with her if she wasn’t cringing at least a little, not over her own performance in the film, but over some of the drunken flamboyance in it.

John Hughes made films about the things teens actually did, after their parents and teachers told them not to do “all the things.” He depicted the choices among the taboos, knowing that whenever you told a teen not to do something, you were often begging them to disobey. That is what real teenagers did then, do now, and will undoubtedly continue to do until the end of the human race.

But, even when Hughes would hint at potentially terrible behavior, there was that recognition of limits. In this case, Hughes had Jake Ryan point out that he could do terrible things with his girlfriend, but that was all. Stating you understand the fact that you could do something terrible is not the same thing as actually doing it. If we’ve gone so far off the rails that even discussing potential bad ideas is verboten, we really are lost.

Image: 20th Century Fox

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Molly Ringwald and Rethinking Her Films

HotAir – Kavanaugh Is The Poster Child For The Perils Of Politicizing Pain

When my teenage son came home from school today, he announced that his History class was doing something that most high school or college level courses don’t do. They are reading the Declaration of Independence. After his complaints about wading through the archaic writing style, he started asking me about the old Greek triumvirate of persuasive speech and writing – Ethos, Logos, and Pathos. It was fitting, even though it was an untimely interruption during the Senate Judiciary Hearing on Brett Kavanaugh.

I quickly applied the definitions to the situation on the screen, explaining to my son that these hearings should be focused on Ethos, or the character of especially Kavanaugh, since he’s being considered for the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, Pathos, or the emotional arguments, have been ruling the day, primarily because there is a lack of Logos, or logic and reason being applied. It’s an extremely abbreviated lesson for not only the classical Greek forms of persuasion, but also these hearings.

Continue reading at HotAir.com.

Image: By Dan Scavino Jr., White House Director of Social Media and Assistant to the President [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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HotAir – Kavanaugh Is The Poster Child For The Perils Of Politicizing Pain