Salt and Snark: Sexual Harassment, the Illegal “Joke” (by Sasha)

That sexual harassment is “news” makes me want to cry. The term “sexual harassment” was coined in the mid 1970s and appeared in the title of Lyn Farley’s book in 1978. Yes. Forty years ago.

And yet commentators and people who know some of the women coming forward are shocked, so shocked, that there exists two climates in the workplace: their own safe welcoming place versus a threatening climate about which they knew nothing. But now, they assure us, with so many women saying #metoo, things will change.

I doubt it.

The fundamental problem about sexual harassment is that victims (and I use the term deliberately as they are people who are targets of illegal activity) know that the risk of reporting it is greater than the risk of trying to appease the aggressor or to live with the harassment. It has been my experience that when a charge is made, the wheels of authority spin in favor of protecting the accused because the company or the institution has a stake in saying this didn’t happen or at least that they are not responsible (especially if this moves to court). The circling of the wagons of protection too often leave the woman on the outside.

Her isolation only increases when the people who were present and/or have knowledge about the incidents decide not to “take sides” or “get involved.” When asked to testify, when asked to back her up, when called upon for evidence, they claim to have seen no evil, heard no evil, and can’t even remember being present during the evil. This reluctance to speak should serve as evidence that the fear of retribution or targeting is real and reaches not only the victim but threatens those who know her as well.  In this chilled “know nothing” climate, victims often have to go it alone.

As a result, the victim becomes “damaged goods,” a “trouble-maker,” and someone to be isolated and avoided. The women who bring the charges are known by a variety of names and none of them good: liars; ballbusters; teases; fantasizers; crazies; delusional bitches; femnazis (yes, remember that one?); frigid; overly sensitive; and those who just can’t take a joke.

So what exactly is the joke? It’s that women in the workplace have to laugh along when they (or other women) are touched, stroked, grabbed, shamed, threatened, kissed, or otherwise sexualized. They should play along when their heads are pushed down toward male crotches, should feel flattered when approached for sex, and should get the joke when men simulate having sex with them. And the funniest part is that men are entitled to do these things to women while at work. You would think that rather than side with these aggressors, those in authority at workplaces should be asking themselves what the hell is going on during the workday!

And as we hear from the famous women who are now coming forward with stories of how they refused these male aggressors, one has to wonder about other women: the ordinary women in the factory or office suite; the women who gave in to quid pro quo demands and feel too ashamed to speak out; the women who left jobs, graduate school, or professions because the way was blocked by a man who felt entitled to make sexual demands. Sexual harassment is illegal because it is serious: it shatters lives. It is a violation of equal protection of law because it undermines equality.

So, do we really need more sensitivity classes to explain to men who do these things why these actions are not only inappropriate but constitute ILLEGAL conduct? Do men really need to be instructed by a voice of authority to keep their pants zipped, their tongues in their mouths, and their hands to themselves? Do they need to be told in a seminar that women should be evaluated by their abilities, skills, and achievements, and not by whether they are willing to trade sex for a work opportunity?

Personally, I don’t think it’s a lack of education or sensitivity that needs to be addressed because it is arrogance, not stupidity that is the problem. What I want to see is enforcement of the laws that exist, and an important part of this structure is that others in the workplace react appropriately to these incidents and complaints.

Unbelievably but consistent with arrogance, many of these incidents occur with witnesses present. For those who see incidents of illegal behavior, intervention not blindness is called for. Say “stop it,” “don’t,” “not funny,” or “cut it out.” If someone brings a complaint, tell what you heard or saw. Help the victim by providing evidence in order to allow the process to work. Men and women have to make it clear that sexual harassment will not be kept a secret and thereby protected, but will instead be challenged and reported.

Administrators need to address sexual harassment the same way they do drug use on the job—zero tolerance. Rather than being unsure “who to believe,” complaints should be investigated and ultimately punished in proportion to the severity of the alleged action. Sexual harassment law allows for unintended mistakes (say, a touch to the shoulder or questionable joke) to be made and a warning issued. But a proven charge of quid pro quo (sex demanded for something), or an outright assault must be grounds for dismissal.

How many women have had their careers destroyed, their life course altered, and their self-esteem and bodies assaulted? We’ll never know, but enough already.

 

 

 

The Hypocrisy of Donald Trump (by Jack)

Hypocrisy is the practice of claiming to have a belief or behavioral standard to which one’s actions do not conform. Most politicians dread being caught being hypocritical and go out of their way to explain—sometimes quite awkwardly—that what is viewed as hypocrisy is merely an “evolving” position.

Donald Trump has taken hypocrisy to new levels however. He is not only blatantly hypocritical but arrogantly denies that he ever said many of the things he actually said. Below are some examples of Trump hypocrisy.

Head scarves in Saudi Arabia

In 2015 when Michelle Obama and her two daughters were in Saudi Arabia and didn’t cover their heads Trump tweeted: “Many people are saying it was wonderful that Mrs. Obama refused to wear a scarf in Saudi Arabia, but they were insulted. We have enuf enemies.” (Jan 29, 2015)

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But when Trump recently visited the Saudi Kingdom Melania was also scarfless. Interestingly, the Saudi’s apparently were quite taken with her. She was in many respects the ideal wife—quiet, beautiful, and deferential to her husband.

Golf

               Trump continually criticized Obama for playing golf. Over 8 years in the presidency Obama was seen on the links 333 times. On October 13, 2014 Trump tweeted: “Can you believe that, with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U. S., President Obama spent the day playing golf.” In 2016 in Virginia he said: “I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to play golf.”

Trump golfing

While it is sometimes difficult to determine exactly when Trump plays because his staff tries to hide it from the press, as of May 16th he has apparently played 21 times. That comes out to about twice the rate of playing as Obama.

 

 

Executive Orders

               During and before the presidential campaign Trump often criticized Obama for abusing power by issuing executive orders. Here is one of his twitter attacks on the subject: “Why is Barack Obama constantly issuing executive orders that are major power grabs of authority?” Over his eight years in office Obama signed 276 executive orders, actually a fairly low number compared with other recent presidents. In 2015 during the campaign Trump said in reference to Obama not making “deals”: “I don’t think he even tries anymore. I think he just signs executive actions. . . . You’re supposed to cajole, get people in a room, you have Republicans, Democrats, you’re supposed to get together and pass a law. [Obama] doesn’t want to do that because it’s too much work. So he doesn’t want to work too hard. He wants to go back and play golf.”

Exec order

 

How is Trump doing? As of May 28th Trump has issued 36 executive orders. That is already more in his first 100-some days than Obama averaged per year over his entire presidency.

Transparency

                  One of Trump’s early criticisms of Obama was about his lack of transparency. In 2012 Trump took to Twitter (again): “Why is Barack Obama spending millions to try and hide his records? He is the least transparent President—ever—and he ran on transparency.”

IRS

But as president Trump seems to have found that transparency is not something to be valued. While Obama released the visitor logs of the White House to the press, President Trump has decided that, for budget reasons, it is too costly to follow that practice.

But perhaps Trump’s largest failure at transparency is his failure to make any of his tax returns public. Indeed, one has to go back 40 years, to the presidency of Gerald Ford, to find the last president who failed to release at least one year of their returns. Many presidents as well as presidential candidates released numerous years of returns. Trump’s excuse is that his returns are being audited, but actually all presidents’ returns are automatically audited and that has not prevented them from releasing their returns.

Does any of this really matter anymore?

The power of hypocrisy—or the revealing of hypocrisy—is that there are agreed upon norms of behavior which, if violated, are found at the very least disturbing. However, in the new postmodern political world that Trump habituates (masters?) everything is “up for grabs.” Truth is debatable, facts can be countered by “alternative facts,” and norms are continually violated. As long as one is emotionally attached to a politician one can accept contradictory behavior by that politician even if such support goes against one’s own interests and beliefs.

Rep. Vern Buchanan and Environmentalism: A Failure to Lead (by Jack)

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Vern Buchanan, Republican Representative to the House for the 16th congressional district in Florida was named as a “legislative leader” in 2016 by the U. S. Humane Society for his record on animal protection issues. He was the only Republican to receive a “100-plus” rating by the organization. Yet, at the same time he obtained a pathetic 29% (out of 100%) rating by the League of Conservation Voters. So what is Buchanan? Is he a congressional leader on the environment? Is he cleverly anti-environment? Is he a “moderate” (something he loves to be called) on the environment?

                  In looking at his public positions on environmental issues and on his roll call votes it seems as if Buchanan is an “old-time” environmentalist (think early 20th Century) with nuanced positions designed to appeal to what he perceives as voters’ interests in his district. Buchanan is an environmentalist along the lines of Teddy Roosevelt. He wants to protect animals and land, but he is generally opposed to government regulation in other environmental areas. That said, however, he adjusts those perspectives to suit his district.

                 For instance, he is a supporter of the Endangered Species Act, in favor of protecting manatees, wants a designated area for the Florida panther to roam, and supports laws to curb animal cruelty. The animals that are found in Florida get special attention, but when it comes to animals outside of Florida Buchanan seems to find a reason not to care much about them. For instance, he claimed that it would be too much government intrusion to try to save wild horses in the far west and voted against legislation that would try to do that. That is, there are no wild horses in the 16th congressional district.

                  The idea of protecting species, especially the manatee and the panther, are particularly attractive positions for Buchanan because they are highly visible, in effect, “sexy” environmental positions. Everybody loves big goofy manatees and who wouldn’t want to try to save the beautiful Florida panther from extinction? Glad he agrees with this, but it hardly counts for leadership.

 

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Evidence of 2014 Coal Slurry spill in West Virginia

Instead, Buchanan’s environmental consciousness pretty much stops at protecting species—endangered species in Florida as well as pets. He dislikes using government regulation to try to protect or clean up the environment (unless, of course, it directly relates to his district). For example, Buchanan signed on to a letter to the Trump administration opposing oil and gas drilling off the coast of Florida (a policy Trump is considering). He also wants the government to spend more money to research red tide, a problem that affects the 16th district’s beaches quite frequently. But if you don’t live in the 16th district Buchanan doesn’t seem to think you need a clean environment. He voted to prevent the Interior Department from enforcing a rule that would prevent coal companies from discarding mining debris into or near streams (mainly in West Virginia).

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On the issue of climate change, arguably one of the most important issues facing the world, Buchanan is eerily silent. He almost never addresses the topic. To figure out where he stands, however, we can look at some votes he has cast. In the past he has voted against the American Clean Energy and Security Act, voted to limit the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, voted against an attempt to put a tax on carbon emissions, and voted against an attempt to merely state that man-made carbon pollution contributes to climate change. In this, he seems to be merely following the party line.

sea-level-advisoryThe irony is that of all the environmental issues out there climate change and the attendant rise in sea levels is the one that will perhaps threaten the 16th congressional district the most as much of the district will slowly slip into the Gulf of Mexico.

 

In sum, on the easy and sexy environmental issues Buchanan is an environmentalist. But on the really complex, difficult, long-term, and more fundamental environmental issues, he is at best cowardly in trying to avoid taking positions and at worst anti-environment. Sadly, these more fundamental environmental issues are the ones that pose the greatest threat to our world.

Salt and Snark: Sarasota School Board decision causes Thomas Jefferson to roll over in his grave (by Jack)

The Sarasota County School Board recently announced that it had chosen to replace out-going superintendent Lori White with Todd Bowden, the 45-year-old executive director of Career, Technical and Adult Education for the Sarasota Schools. After an extensive national search, lo and behold!!! the best candidate in the entire nation just happens to be right here under our noses. School board members praised Bowden for “know[ing] our district’s issues completely.” Well, duh, no kidding. Was that attribute in the ad for the position?

jefferson_grave Meanwhile on a hilltop overlooking Charlottesville, Virginia a tremor startled residents as Thomas Jefferson rolled over in his grave. Why, you may ask?

Thomas Jefferson was the first American politician to advocate for public education; in fact, he developed a ground-breaking theoretical justification and structure for education. He contended that a well-educated citizenry was crucial for the creation and maintenance of democracy. If we could educate citizens to understand the world and their place in it, and if we could provide citizens with the skills of reasoning and critical thinking, we might be able to sustain what was then a bold experiment—democracy. Jefferson believed that democracy was not dependent on structures like

798e61cbd277a01e1863f35f1863c439checks and balances or political elites, but on a vigilant, well-educated public.

At the time public education was a radical idea. In his writings that were crafted in his study at Monticello he sketched out a system of education beginning early in life and culminating in a university education that revolved around studying and understanding the classics. By studying the arts and sciences citizens would become reflective, critical thinkers who could act upon their world to transform it. In other words, the health of democracy was based on a broad, liberally educated (in the classical sense) citizenry. Education would open one’s mind and, in the process, benefit democratic society by creating active democratic citizens.

University Green Historic District   But the tremors did not fade out in Virginia, instead they traveled up the East Coast. The island of Manhattan also experienced the quake as educational philosopher John Dewey likewise rolled over in his grave. Building further on Jefferson, Dewey envisioned education as helping students realize their potential, not as cogs in the capitalist machine, but as human beings who, through education, could work toward the greater good of society by discovering their own potentials. Dewey rejected the idea that education should provide students with a set of pre-determined skills (job training) and instead education should be a catalyst for social change.

dewey-education-life-itself

Is this lofty vision of education what Superintendent-to-be Todd Bowden embraces in Sarasota? Well, not exactly (in fact, not at all).

Todd Bowden doesn’t think much of educating people to be democratic citizens; he doesn’t seem to be interested in opening up the minds of young people; he doesn’t pay much attention to critical thinking; he seems unaware of how education can develop morals and values; he doesn’t seem to think much of classical education. Todd Bowden’s vision of education is to train people for jobs, to be cogs in the inherently anti-democratic “machine.” Here is what he said: “I talk regularly about why we educate, and we don’t educate for education’s sake. We educate with a workforce development mindset so that all our students can be financially independent. So that they graduate not just with academic skills, but skills that translate into the workforce. . . it is the core of what we do.

How’s that for a lofty vision of education?

Alas, the Sarasota School Board seemed to be impressed with that “vision” of education. He received unanimous support.

I probably shouldn’t be shocked as the future Superintendent Bowden is in the mainstream of “educational philosophy” in Florida. Led by Governor Scott who similarly believes that the major purpose of education is to train people for jobs (note his “Degrees to Jobs” initiative) the vision that dominates education throughout most of Florida is job preparation. Training people for jobs is training people to fit into an authoritarian system, to obey rather than question, to keep silent, and to accept ethically questionable activities (e.g., Wells Fargo).

Democracy needs citizens who possess the understanding and skills necessary to behave democratically. If we don’t start developing those attributes in school, where will we do it?

meme_nationignorantfree_thomasjefferson

From the Salt Mines: Unionizing in Sarasota (by Sasha)

Just when I thought that unions were a dying breed (along with any recognition of workers’ rights), two groups of employees in Sarasota have recently voted to unionize: the faculty at State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, and the newsroom of Sarasota’s local newspaper, the Herald-Tribune.

Kudos to both. Teaching and news reporting are worth fighting for.

SCF faculty had to do something after the disastrous decision by its Trustees to eliminate tenure for all new hires, making SCF unique among Florida state colleges.

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en.wikipedia.com

Tenure is mainly defended for the philosophical reason of “academic freedom.” This isn’t just a highbrow concept; it has practical implications for those of us who have taught and researched topics that are controversial (and in the world of academia where just about anything is questioned, that means just about everything.) Imagine researching global warming, reproductive rights, religious tolerance, genetic engineering, or a theory of limited growth in Florida’s current political environment. Your career would be at risk.

But tenure is more than just academic freedom. It is what the business world would normally concede to be a “best practice” because why on earth would any professor of merit, i.e., a scholar who worked for 10+ years to earn a Ph.D. and establish a strong c.v., choose to join an outlier college that did not offer job security when there are other choices available? In addition, the academic world is scheduled to at least one year out for jobs, conference papers, grants, journal submissions, and invited lectures. The offer of a one-year contract means that new hires will need to apply right away for their next job. One foot out the door is not a way to build a dedicated faculty.

It’s no surprise, then, that the faculty at SCF Manatee-Sarasota, voted last week 75-25 to unionize.

Decisions were also made at the Herald-Tribune that threatened the workforce and the integrity of their work. From 2006-2008, the HT cut its workforce by one-third. Within the last five years, the paper was owned by the NY Times Co.,  sold to the Halifax Media Group in 2011, then acquired in 2015 by GateHouse Media. As expected, layoffs followed the acquisition; 16 newsroom employees lost their jobs.

For the newsroom employees at the Herald-Tribune, the September 15 decision to unionize appears to have been a difficult one. The vote to unionize was 22-16; a number that is sad not just because it shows divisiveness, but because of the sum: there are only 38 newsroom employees left.

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The Herald Tribune building by charlesapple.com

The downsizing of staff made it possible for the  HT to announce in August that it will move from its iconic Main Street building to three floors of the SunTrust building next store. Meanwhile Senior Editor, Bill Church, will leave the HT effective September 26 to take a promotion to Senior Vice President of News at GateHouse in Austen. Apparently he achieved in Sarasota what he was hired to do.

So pay attention workers of Sarasota–workers’ rights are at a nadir and unions may be on the rise. Hmmmmmm. Cause and effect?

 

 

The Salt Life: Burkinis and Sarasota (by Sasha)

There are French beach towns that have said “non” concerning Muslim women who wear “burkinis” at the beach.

Mind you, this isn’t a matter of nudity or prudity; this is a concern that the women on the beach are wearing too much and so 30 French towns banned burkinis, concluding this apparel is dangerous because it is, according to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, a “provocation.”

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bbc.com

Strange. I grew up when the bikini and topless sunbathing by women were considered provocative. But wearing too much at the beach? A provocation? A “symbol of the oppression of women”? Really?

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independent.co.uk

Okay. I know there is a reason behind the French argument but it is a contorted one, so follow along: The French mayors and President aren’t saying that burkinis are too sexually stimulating; they object to burkinis because they are too politically stimulating. Burkinis are equated with religious garb that constitute an affront to France’s secular values. But then the logical leap is that every woman who dresses in full-body swimwear at the beach is an oppressed Muslim–who might also be perceived as a member of radicalized Islam and, therefore, given the series of Islamist attacks on French soil, these potential terrorists lounging on French beaches fully clothed will make other beach goers, ummm, uncomfortable.

The argument is too incredibly illogical and ignorant to even warrant a rebuttal, n’est pas?

In contrast, here in Sarasota we are a bastion of liberty—a line in the sand (ha, ha) where the individual right to cover up is recognized. We not only allow women to walk the beach wearing as much clothing as they like, but we also have doctors who advise them to cover up!

  •  There are the women who are jogging wearing their 50 SPF proof jogging suits (but what if running for them is a religious experience?);
  • There are the Mennonites who walk Lido Beach wearing ankle-length pastel dresses and bonnets (Eek! Tied to religious practices!);
  • There are the newly arrived tourists who wear jeans and loose tee-shirts (and thank their deity that they are here);
  • There are the brides and their attendants in their sweeping long dresses (Eek! many times fresh from participating in religious ceremonies on the beach);
  • There are the women who cover themselves with towels and hide from the sun beneath huge umbrellas (and pray that their dermatologist will commend them for their efforts).

Meanwhile, there are news videos of French police officers forcing Muslim women to strip off their burkinis right there on the beach in order to stay put. Huh? A government-enforced strip tease? That’s not provocative?

But today (8/26/16), at least for the moment, reason prevailed when France’s highest administrative court ruled that the burkini bans in French resorts are illegal as they constitute “a serious and manifestly illegal infringement of fundamental liberties.”

In response, at least one mayor vowed to fight on, defy the ruling, and maintain the ban in the name of ending women’s oppression.

Mon Dieu.

 

 

Karma To Run For Senate? Considers taking on ‘Lil Marco (by Jack)

In a surprising development, Karma, the cute white Tibetan Terrier (which is not really a terrier at all) is considering a run at the U. S. Senate seat in Florida presently held by Marco Rubio.IMG_1909

Her candidacy was inspired by Duke, the 9 year-old Great Pyrenees that has recently won a third one-year term as honorary mayor of Cormorant Township in Minnesota.

Speaking through an interpreter she said:  “We are being overrun by illegal Mexican chihauhuas and ‘Lil Marco supports granting them amnesty and even allowing them to compete at Westminster. These illegal Mexican immigrants have criminal backgrounds (expired dog licenses!) and run drugs (black market flea meds!) and are a threat to homegrown dogs—even though there are some, I suppose, who are nice.”

Laying on her poolside cabana she calming mused about the problem: “I hear that they are crossing our border with ‘coyotes.’ We will have a bigly problem in the future when we have cross-bred coyotes and chihauhuas. Trust me.” Karma took a brief time-out to lick her butt and then continued with what was now becoming a rant.

“’Lil Marco has done nothing to protect the right to be secure within our doghouses for all American canines. All he cares about are those Havanese. If I were to win I would build a wall. Believe me. It would be high enough that not just the chihauhuas couldn’t jump over it but neither could the coyotes. Believe me, believe me.”

[This reporter had the odd feeling that Karma’s speech was familiar–was she plagiarizing, and if so, from whom?]

While her announcement has not been made official, Karma has already picked up the endorsement of former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke who yesterday issued his unsolicited endorsement: “I love Karma’s white fur. I support white power in all forms. I am overjoyed to see that she is embracing issues I have championed for years. It’s time we put America first!” Asked if she would accept Duke’s endorsement she glared at the reporter who asked the question and responded: “Grrrrrrrrrr.”IMG_1903

Karma seemed fully prepared when asked about her own immigrant roots. “My ancestors came here legally when the Chinese took over Tibet. By nature we are a peaceful breed.  Indeed one of my distant relatives, Senge, was the Dalai Lama’s most loyal companion. So, I understand oppression. But the important difference is that my kind came here legally, the Mexican chihauhuas are being dumped here by the Mexican government. We must build a wall to keep them out. And, what’s more, I will make the Mexican Kennel Club pay for it! Believe me.”

Meanwhile, Florida politics continues to amaze us all.