Thursday Afternoon ReadsPosted: November 16, 2017
I’m really glad JJ posted something late yesterday, because I’m feeling overwhelmed this morning. There is just too much happening for anyone to process all of it.
The Republicans have found a distraction from the Roy Moore scandal. A woman has accused Al Franken of sexual harassment/abuse. It happened on a USO tour in 2006. You can read the whole story at KABC Los Angeles: Senator Al Franken Kissed and Groped Me Without My Consent, And There’s Nothing Funny About It.
Here’s a briefer summary from New York Magazine: Radio Host Leeann Tweeden Accuses Senator Al Franken of Kissing and Groping Her.
Senator Al Franken was accused Thursday of kissing and groping a TV and radio host without her consent. Leeann Tweeden, who has previously worked for NBC and Fox Sports and currently works on “McIntyre in the Morning” on KABC/790 AM, wrote on the radio station’s website about her encounter with Franken.
It took place in 2006 when the two of them were a part of a USO trip to the Middle East, she writes. Franken had written a sketch that had the two of them kissing and, before they performed, he insisted they rehearse it despite Tweeden’s refusal.
He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable.
He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said ‘OK’ so he would stop badgering me. We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.
Later on a plane, Tweeden fell asleep and and Franken posed for a “joke” picture with her.
I couldn’t believe it.He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep.
I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated.
How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?
It doesn’t look like Franken is really touching her breasts, but it was still a disgusting thing to do.
Mitch McConnell has called for an ethics investigation and Franken say he’ll be happy to cooperate. Here’s what Joy Reed had to say.
Now the accuser is saying she has heard from another woman with a similar experience with Franken.
Franken has released an apology. From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leeann, to everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women. There’s more I want to say, but the first and most important thing—and if it’s the only thing you care to hear, that’s fine—is: I’m sorry.
“I respect women. I don’t respect men who don’t. And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.
“But I want to say something else, too. Over the last few months, all of us—including and especially men who respect women—have been forced to take a good, hard look at our own actions and think (perhaps, shamefully, for the first time) about how those actions have affected women.
“For instance, that picture. I don’t know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn’t funny. It’s completely inappropriate. It’s obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture. And, what’s more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it—women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me.
“Coming from the world of comedy, I’ve told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny but later came to realize were just plain offensive. But the intentions behind my actions aren’t the point at all. It’s the impact these jokes had on others that matters. And I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to come to terms with that.
“While I don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences.
“I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate.
“And the truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories. They deserve to be heard, and believed. And they deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them.”
Can you imagine Trump giving an apology like that? Someone needs to ask McConnell why there isn’t an investigation of Trump’s treatment of women.
So that’s pretty depressing. Meanwhile more women have come forward to tell their stories about creepy Roy Moore. Here’s a new one today from ABC News: Roy Moore accuser: I got him banned from the mall.
An Alabama woman who has accused Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexually harassing her in the late 1970s said he was banned from the mall where she worked after she complained about his repeated, unwanted advances toward her.
“I went to my manager and talked to him about it and asked him, basically, what could be done,” Becky Gray told ABC News late Wednesday night. “Later on, he…came back through my department and told me that [Moore] had been banned from the mall.”
Gray said she has grown increasingly frustrated with critics who continue to question the veracity of numerous women’s claims of being sexually harassed four decades ago by the embattled former Alabama chief justice.
“It also upsets me where I read where a person says, ‘Well, why didn’t they come forward 40 years ago?'” Gray said.
She went on, “These women have no reason to lie about their sexual encounters… so I just don’t understand people that don’t believe that it’s true. There’s a lot of shame to this, and for those women who did have sexual encounters with Moore, I commend them for coming out – I really do. It’s about time.”
Meanwhile, Moore and his supporters are not behaving like Al Franken. The Washington Post: In Roy Moore’s Senate race, anonymous threats, deceptive texts, alternative facts.
A minister in south Alabama gets a phone call from a man who says he is a Washington Post reporter offering cash for dirt about Senate candidate Roy Moore. A man who told an Alabama newspaper about Moore’s alleged approaches to teenage girls when he was in his 30s receives texts falsely telling him he is being sued for defamation.
On Twitter and Facebook, in texts and in phone calls, Alabamians say they are on the receiving end of a muddy river of threats, dirty tricks and angry attacks, all aimed at undermining allegations that Moore, the Republican candidate in next month’s special election to fill a U.S. Senate seat, made sexual advances to teenagers decades ago.
After Blake Usry told AL.com, an Alabama news site, that he knew girls Moore tried to flirt with, Usry received threatening phone calls and Facebook messages, as well as texts informing him that he had been sued for defamation.
One text falsely claimed that northern Alabama’s U.S. attorney, Jay Town, “has verified defamation cases” against Usry and others who were quoted in news articles.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
NBC’s First Read on how Trump is ignoring the Moore accusations: Trump’s silence on Roy Moore speaks volumes.
…the silence from Trump — as the president of the United States, as the leader of the Republican Party and as someone who is never afraid to tweet what’s on his mind — speaks volumes. Does he agree with daughter Ivanka Trump, who told the AP that there’s “a special place in hell for people who prey on children. I’ve yet to see a valid explanation and I have no reason to doubt the victims’ accounts”? (But she didn’t call for him to exit the race.) Does he agree with the Alabama Republican Party, which maintains its support for Moore, per NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard? Or does he agree with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, who ended his broadcast last night saying the issue was up to Alabama voters?
In fairness to Trump, there are no good solutions here. The ballot is already set; Moore doesn’t look like he’s leaving the race; a write-in campaign would be incredibly hard to mount; and Trump already tried once to defeat Moore (yet his candidate lost the runoff). But does anyone think if the shoe were on the other foot — if a Democratic candidate in a high-profile race faced similar allegations — would the president be staying silent right now?
We all know Trump is a coward. He doesn’t want to answer questions about his own predatory behavior with women.
I can’t possibly get to all of the news, but here are three stories I think are worth reading.
Sandwiched between onlookers who’d waited in line outside in the cold to be ushered into the dimmed Christie’s gallery to gaze and gawk at what the auction house trumpets as “the greatest and most unexpected artistic rediscovery of the 21st century” — that is, a brand-new Leonardo da Vinci lost in the 1600s, scheduled to be auctioned off this week — a well-known expert in the field leaned over and asked me a question. “Why is a Leonardo in a Modern and Contemporary auction?” Before I could say, “Yeah! Why?” he answered, “Because 90 percent of it was painted in the last 50 years.” He’s right. Not only does it look like a dreamed-up version of a missing da Vinci, various X-ray techniques show scratches and gouges in the work, paint missing, a warping board, a beard here and gone, and other parts of the painting obviously brushed up and corrected to make this probable copy look more like an original.
The painting is titled Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World) and is a portrait of a smoky floating man in a blue robe looking at us, raising his right hand in blessing, holding a crystal orb in his left hand, pictured against a black background. It’s said to have been painted around 1500, when the real Leonardo would have been 48 years old and already the most famous artist alive. On Wednesday night, this small picture is being auctioned off by Christie’s with massive jubilation. The opening bid is set at $100 million. (Which might even seem cheap when you remember that Damien Hirst’s 2007 For the Love of God, a diamond-and-platinum-encrusted human skull, was priced the same.) This explains why one Christie’s official rapturously primed the collector pump by wondering aloud if someone might bid “$2 billion.” In a world this out of whack, that could happen. Promoting the sale is a glossy 162-page book with quotes from Dostoyevsky, Freud, and Leonardo, and several platitudinal Christie’s videos of enraptured gazers gawking in wonder at “the new masterpiece.” Don’t miss the extended clip of three male company bigwigs pitching it to Hong Kong clients as “the holy grail of our business, a male Mona Lisa, the last da Vinci, our baby, something with blockbuster appeal, akin to the discovery of a new planet, and more valuable than a petro chemical plant.”
I’m no art historian or any kind of expert in old masters. But I’ve Realooked at art for almost 50 years and one look at this painting tells me it’s no Leonardo. The painting is absolutely dead. Its surface is inert, varnished, lurid, scrubbed over, and repainted so many times that it looks simultaneously new and old. This explains why Christie’s pitches it with vague terms like “mysterious,” filled with “aura,” and something that “could go viral.” Go viral? As a poster, maybe. A two-dimensional ersatz dashboard Jesus.
Read much more at the Vulture link.
The Washington Post on Nov. 13: This is how a superpower commits suicide.
This is partially the structural byproduct of the rapid rise of China, which has openly called for a 21st century new regional order of “Asia for Asians.” Since 2013, the Asian powerhouse has rolled out an alluring package of development initiatives, which could potentially redraw the economic landscape of the region and beyond. With China emerging as the world’s economic engine, it is proactively reclaiming its historical place in the sun.
But it is also the byproduct of the tempestuous Trump presidency’s devastating impact on American standing in Asia. Both allies and rivals in the region have been perturbed by Trump’s “America first,” neo-isolationist foreign policy. His midnight tirades on Twitter, constant attacks on the liberal international order and push to dismantle the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement have collectively left America isolated even from some of its closest allies.
As an official from one of America’s key partners in the region put it to me earlier this year: “Is this how superpowers commit suicide?” It appears the answer is yes.
I highly recommend reading the whole thing.
The Guardian: How Trump walked into Putin’s web. Subhead: The inside story of how a former British spy was hired to investigate Russia’s influence on Trump – and uncovered explosive evidence that Moscow had been cultivating Trump for years, by Luke Harding. It’s a long read, so I’m not going to try to post excerpts.
Harding has a new book out titled Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win, and the article is based on the book. Last night Ari Melber announced that Harding will be on MSNBC’s The Last Word tonight.
So . . . what stories are you following today?