• #MeToo: A Poll About Sexual Assault

    Erik Mcgregor/Pacific Press via ZUMA

    Much of the recent pushback to the #MeToo movement revolves around the idea that we aren’t drawing proper distinctions between serious sexual assault and less serious everyday boorishness. Here is Megan McArdle:

    I have now had dozens of conversations about #MeToo with women my age or older, all of which are some variant on “What the hey?” It’s not that we’re opposed to #MeToo; we are overjoyed to see slime like Harvey Weinstein flushed out of the woodwork, and the studio system. But we see sharp distinctions between Weinstein and guys who press aggressively — embarrassingly, adulterously — for sex. To women in their 20s, it seems that distinction is invisible.

    ….Let me propose a possible answer to this, suggested by a very smart social scientist of my acquaintance: They feel this way because we no longer have any moral language for talking about sex except consent. So when men do things that they feel are wrong — such as aggressively pursuing casual sex without caring about the feelings of their female target — we’re left flailing for some way to describe this as non-consensual, even when she agreed to the sex.

    But Anna North says young women are perfectly capable of distinguishing between coerced sex from powerful men; unwanted groping from strangers; and the awkward overaggressiveness of a guy like Aziz Ansari:

    Many of those criticizing #MeToo seem to think that modern-day McCarthys want to strip men of their jobs and lock them up at the merest hint of flirtation. But there’s no reason to think that the many people coming forward to speak out about sexual misconduct can’t handle a conversation about a variety of kinds of sexual misconduct — and a variety of possible remedies….Moreover, many critics seem to believe that women are incapable of discernment, that they see no difference between a rape and an unwelcome comment, that they are equally outraged by everything.

    ….Neither is always the case. Aziz Ansari may face career repercussions for Grace’s story, but that hasn’t happened yet. Nor is there any suggestion that he’ll go to jail. And contrary to the image of women as vindictive harridans out for blood, there are examples of women who have responded with gratitude, even forgiveness, to men’s apologies.

    I think there’s some truth to both of these comments. But I wonder: do we have even a rough consensus about how serious various actions are? In criminal law, everything is specified in minute detail, and punishments range from a $50 fine to life in federal prison. We don’t have that in real life, so instead here’s a survey for you. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rank the offenses of each of the following men? If you’re not familiar with a case, leave it blank. I ask for your gender at the end because I want to find out if there’s any kind of systematic difference between men and women.

    Obviously this isn’t scientific, and the questions are best answered quickly. The point, obviously, is to force you to make a rough but concrete judgment. I’m curious about how my readership views this stuff.

  • Hushmoneygate? Stormygate? Whatever. It’s Getting Deeper, Faster.

    Stormy Daniels: Clinton Wallace/Globe Photos/ZUMA; Michael Cohen: Tom Williams/Congressional Quarterly/Newscom via ZUMA

    While we all wait to see what happens with the #ShitholeShutdown, the Wall Street Journal tells us more about the hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign:

    President Donald Trump’s lawyer used a private Delaware company to pay a former adult-film star $130,000 in return for her agreeing to not publicly discuss an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump, according to corporate records and people familiar with the matter.

    The lawyer, Michael Cohen, established Essential Consultants LLC, on Oct. 17, 2016, just before the 2016 presidential election, corporate documents show….[To] mask the identities of the people involved in the agreement, the parties used pseudonyms, with [Daniels] identified as “Peggy Peterson,” according to a person familiar with the matter. Part of the draft settlement pact was published by Slate.

    Let’s just repeat this: Trump’s lawyer paid hush money to a former mistress in the middle of a presidential campaign. But Trump refuses to talk about this and Cohen refuses to tell us where the money came from. How is it that the Wall Street Journal is the only paper chasing this story?

    But fine. It’s a porn star and the president. You want the titillating gossip, don’t you? Fine. Our own Daniel Friedman writes that a few years ago Stormy Daniels considered running for the Senate in Louisiana. She gave all her cell phone contacts to a political consultant, who then emailed about it to Andrea Dubé, a Democratic political consultant based in New Orleans:

    “Donald Trump?” she wrote. “In her cell phone?”

    “Yep,” the other consultant replied. “She says one time he made her sit with him for three hours watching ‘shark week.’ Another time he had her spank him with a Forbes magazine.” Dubé and the other consultant confirmed to Mother Jones they exchanged these emails.

    The campaign consultant who wrote the email to Dubé tells Mother Jones that Daniels said the spanking came during a series of sexual and romantic encounters with Trump and that it involved a copy of Forbes with Trump on the cover.

    A fall 2006 cover of Forbes does feature Trump and two of his children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka.

    benjamin_collectibles/eBay

    Really, Donald? Such a naughty, naughty boy.

  • FAKE NEWS Poll Results!

    I know you’ve been waiting with bated breath for the results of yesterday’s FAKE NEWS poll. So here it is:

    WKRP won in a landslide. Who knew there were so many Les Nessman fans out there? It was the turkey episode that put him over the top, wasn’t it?

    Not much love for the classics here, I’m afraid. It just goes to show the pitiable state of modern culture. There were also more fans of The Name of the Game than I would have guessed. Did 24 of you guys actually watch that show?

  • Lunchtime Photo

    I asked Marian to curate today’s photo, and to my surprise she picked this one. It is, obviously, a London bus passing Trafalgar Square. That’s Nelson’s column in the background. The bus itself is the #9 that formed our primary link between downtown and our home in Kensington.

    It’s worth saying that if you visit London and haven’t used the buses, you’re missing out. Not only can you see the city, especially from the upper deck, but the right bus can often get you closer to your destination than the tube. If nothing else, get to know two or three of the main bus routes that pass near your hotel or house. Or download an app like CityMapper that will figure out a bus route for you based on where you happen to be. Buses use the same Oyster card you use for the tube.

    Marian was a little bit skeptical at first, but she quickly became a great fan and took the bus everywhere. They’re mostly not very crowded, even at rush hour, and if you can snag the front upper seat, you get a great view.

  • Republicans Control Everything, But Still Can’t Pass a Budget

    Chris Hayes has a question:

    Probably never. But it’s worth pointing out why it’s happening now. It’s because appropriations are normally handled via reconciliation, which allows the majority party to pass them with only 51 votes. This year, however, Republicans decided to use the 2017 reconciliation bill for repealing Obamacare and the 2018 reconciliation bill for passing their tax bill. So there’s nothing left, and that means they need 60 votes in the Senate.

    This is the only reason they have to negotiate with Democrats in the first place. Their top priorities were taking away health insurance from poor people and giving a big tax cut to corporations and the rich. So now they’re stuck, and they’ve got a president who changes his mind so frequently that nobody can figure out what kind of deal he’d support anyway.

    Lots of people will suffer if the government shuts down because Trump is insisting on a huge increase in the military budget and a wholesale change to immigration laws. But it will mostly be the poor who suffer, and the rich already have their tax cut. So I guess it’s all good.

  • 2017 Set an Astonishing New Temperature Record

    The 2017 temps are in, and NASA reports that 2017 was the second-hottest year on record. On a global basis, 2017 was 0.9ºC hotter than the 20th century average. More importantly, it was the hottest by far outside of El Niño years. 2017 was an astonishing 0.26°C hotter than the previous hottest non-El Niño year.

    Just for a change of pace, though, let’s take a look at temperatures in the northern hemisphere, since that’s where most of us live. For the last couple of decades, the northern hemisphere has been heating up considerably more than the planet as a whole: in 2017, the northern hemisphere was a full 1.11ºC hotter than the 20th century average. Here’s the 50-year temperature record for the northern hemisphere:

    And here are northern hemisphere temps solely for years without an El Niño event. 2017 was 0.28°C hotter than the previous record holder:

    Just more fake news, I suppose.