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A “ride or die” friend is someone you would pledge your undying loyalty to until the bitter end. Like Thelma and Louise, you’d go over a cliff with them if that’s what it takes. From the Urban Dictionary:

“Ride or Die was originally a biker term meaning if you couldn’t ride you’d rather die. It has now changed to mean anyone (wife, boyfriend, best friend), that you will “ride” ANY problems out with them or “die” trying. The “ride” doesn’t always have to be a negative either. “

This is the rubric our president has been using lately in appointing cabinet members.

While all eyes were focusing on Nevada, and the mainstream media is still trying to figure out Bernie Sanders, our Dictator-in-Chief has unleashed his vindictive wrath on anyone who appears to have not pledged their loyalty to him. The Senate gave him a pass and he is NOT chastened; in fact, Mr T loves firing people so much – staffers he deems Never Trumpers, or competent people who tell him the truth like acting Intelligence Director Joe Maguire, or anyone who so much as looks at him fish-eyed – that he has supposedly compiled a Hit List!

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE???

I myself never made a Hit List, but some kids do this kind of thing in middle school. They are usually kids who have been bullied or marginalized in some way. In the worst case scenarios, their parents own guns. Also, dictators make lists of their enemies.

When I woke up to hear that Mr T said, in India, that two women of the SCOTUS, the Notorious RBG and Sonia Sotomayor, should recuse themselves from future cases that may involve HIM, I nearly died. And just like any good toddler, or psychopath, he turned the tables, blaming Sotomayor for her statements about government interference. Please picture Trump, or any late night comedian, saying this in their most whiny, pitiful voice:

“I just thought it was so inappropriate, such a terrible statement for a Supreme Court justice,” he (Trump) said. “She’s trying to shame people with perhaps a different view into voting her way, and that’s so inappropriate . . . I’ve seen papers on it — people cannot believe that she said it.”  

I cannot believe that he said THAT! Also, I can’t actually believe anything he says. There is that.

I remember when Rumson Boro Councillors would get up and walk out of a meeting because they held some stock in a company that was being discussed, or maybe they had a son who was working for that company, they would rightly RECUSE themselves. Not because they held a different point of view. Not because they belonged to a different political party…

Somehow we’ve been trying to normalize Trump’s behavior, but we must stop. He is not only trying to surround himself with a ride or die White House of blind loyalists, he’s got the wife of one SCOTUS actively helping him with his list of disloyal staffers… that bears repeating, Justice Clarence Thomas’ lobbyist wife:

“These lists, created by a network of conservative activists called Groundswell that include Republican Senate staffer Barbara Ledeen and Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, have made their way to Trump and shaped his views re: who he can trust and who should be canned. For instance, a memo on Liu, reportedly reviewed by Trump shortly before her nomination was withdrawn, laid out 14 reasons why she was unfit for the Treasury job Steven Mnuchin had selected her for and included the fact that she: hadn’t acted on criminal referrals of some of Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers…”  https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/02/donald-trump-government-hit-list

Yesterday I had to look up “Rape in the 3rd Degree.” https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/PEN/130.25

Is our justice system blind? When the wife of a sexual harasser (remember Anita Hill), is helping the man who’s been accused of sexual abuse or misconduct or RAPE by at least 25 women, (I’m talking about Trump not Harvey Weinstein) well maybe our country is suffering from a kind of collective amnesia. Here’s a LIST for you: https://www.businessinsider.com/women-accused-trump-sexual-misconduct-list-2017-12

Our country is at a tipping point. If we don’t #VoteBlueNoMatterWho we’ll be the ones going off that cliff. We’ll be playing a dulcimer on the deck of the Titanic.

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Do you miss Chip and Joanna Gaines on HGTV? All the silo-loving, shiplap-using, funny marriage-banter of their show “Fixer Upper?” Not me; I see their “Magnolia” housewares in my local Target, and I follow her on Twitter.

Last night was “movie night” in their farmhouse. All five kids (including the newborn) were piled up in their meticulous Master Bedroom bed, with a fire going in the fireplace and a Christmas tree in the corner. It almost looked too good to be true.

There is an undercurrent of unrest in Waco, TX. Housing prices have skyrocketed and tourists have been flooding into town to catch a glimpse of the happy Gaines’. Rumor has it, the Evangelical couple belong to a church that shuns LGBTQ people. And all those beautifully rehabbed homes, many have been spotted on AirBnB.

Now Waco is in the news for all the wrong reasons.

“Jacob Walter Anderson, 24, faced charges of sexual assault after allegedly attacking the woman at a fraternity party two years ago.

But after agreeing to a plea deal on a lesser charge, the former Baylor University student was given three years’ deferred probation.

The woman said she was “devastated”.

“He stole my body, virginity and power over my body and you let him keep it all for eternity,” the woman told Judge Ralph Strother in a Waco courtroom after he agreed the deal, NBC News reported.”  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-46519600

This is the THIRD time this judge has approved a plea deal for probation after a rape in the past two years, all Baylor University students. Anderson drugged and raped a young woman repeatedly and left her outside to die. But we wouldn’t want to “ruin” this white boy’s reputation, after all he is a former fraternity president and may one day want to serve on the Supreme Court.

He will not have to register as a sex offender, and his charge was knocked down to “unlawful restraint.” In Texas, if you’re white and wealthy, you are obviously above the law. At first Anderson was facing 20 years for rape, now two years later, his lawyers are celebrating; “No Jail Time” screams the headlines!

Great Grandpa Hudson graduated from Baylor a long time ago. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t a frat boy since he had served in the Navy during WWII first, and later became a missionary to Ghana. Bob recently accompanied him in an ambulance to the Bride’s ER. It seems he fell and conked his head, which immediately gets you all the bells and whistles, even though he never lost consciousness and all his tests were fine. Hudson is one indestructible old sailor!

As for Baylor Alum Chip and Joanna, I’m pretty sure their white-washed, religious life will have its share of ups and downs, like any marriage. But unlike most, they are still in the spotlight. At least her bedroom Christmas tree wasn’t blood red, like a certain immigrant from Slovenia!

Here is the girl who recently lost her first tooth and her Great Grandma the marriage counselor. That’s a Mona Lisa smile if I ever saw one!

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This morning the Bride asked me if I’d heard any news yet today, or was I still blissfully unaware of American politics? Instead of sitting under the Tuscan sun, listening to sheep bells and sipping cappuccino, I was trying to get my Keurig to work while realizing we had no milk in the refrigerator. I know, poor me.

But I had powered up the NYT website on my phone last night and knew that the highly controversial SCOTUS nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, was in trouble for sexually assaulting a 15 year old when he was 17. At first I was confused; how would they delay his hearing until Monday when his accuser would speak? Wasn’t yesterday Monday? Jet lag can be a real problem when you’re on an Air France flight just a short hop from Florence to Paris, and then on to Atlanta for nine hours.

We arrived home in Nashville around 3 am this morning, Italian time. And “Scusa” for a minute, I’ve just returned from T’ai Chi!

But from what I’ve read about this predicament so far, the Republicans are in trouble. Do you remember the woman, Liz Seccuro, who received an apology letter from her rapist 20 years after the fact? It was 2006 and he was a new AA member and was making his amends to people, except this woman had him arrested, and they went to trial in Charlottesville. It was very big UVA news – the rapist went to jail. Fraternity hi-jinks, boys being boys? The victim later told a Cville reporter about that night when she was just 17 in 1984:

“This is what it feels like to die. I’m going to die here, and no one’s going to find me.”

Twenty-one years later, Seccuro tearfully says she knows the truth: “Part of you does die.”

http://www.readthehook.com/98246/cover-i-harmed-you-21-years-12-steps-later-rape-apology-backfires

I remember distinctly the first time I heard that phrase about boys. Some bully had pushed me off my bike In Victory Gardens, I was probably 7 or 8 years old. I broke my leg and spent the summer in a cast. It was the only time Nelly called another mom on the phone and told her “what for,” explaining what had happened.

“Boys will be boys,” the bully’s mother said, and the instant flash of anger I felt, at that moment, is still fresh. My budding realization that life wouldn’t always be fair for girls. The total ignorance, the indecency and hypocrisy of the GOP is mind-numbing today. #MeToo has seen more women than ever running for Congress, and if only Kavanugh withdraws, which I believe he will do before Monday, November is coming…we do NOT need another Anita Hill excoriation next week, nor will we stand for one.

Here is Saint Barbara standing on some guy’s head flanked by John the Baptist and some other dude! On a kinder and gentler note, do we purchase a Keurig or a Nespresso? Ciao!

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In local Blue Ridge news, the Rolling Stone “Rape on Campus” trial is winding down. UVA Associate Administrator Nicole Eramo is suing the iconic rock magazine for 7.5 Million in a defamation lawsuit. Our little Cville courthouse has been hosting lots of Yankee traffic this week because Eramo, who was the person in charge of coordinating the school’s response to students claiming sexual assault or harassment, would like to prove the reporter and editors acted with malice.  

“Actual malice is a legal standard, loosely defined in this scenario to mean that Rolling Stone knew that information they were publishing was false, but they proceeded to publish it anyway.” 

Yesterday Sean Woods, an editor at Rolling Stone for 17 years, took the stand. And we learned that he meant to add an addendum to the original article, stating that the other witnesses refused to be interviewed in person for fear of reprisal (meaning their corroboration of “Jackie’s” statements after the alleged rape were hearsay). He really meant to add this, but he forgot!

This would seem unlikely. I might forget where I left my cellphone, but every editor I ever knew would never forget something like that. You must be a little OCD to be an editor; in fact, you may have to be certifiably OCD to do that kind of work. However, Woods stood by his criticism of the administrator, stating Eramo was a public figure and therefore subject to scrutiny…which is almost like saying, “Yeah we screwed up, but so did she, nah nah nah.” Oh and he also tried to resign, but they didn’t let him.

I wonder if being forgetful is the same as being malicious, only in a passive aggressive way?

Now y’all know I’m a card carrying feminist, a proud “nasty” woman, and if a woman cries rape, or “He kissed me against my will with a mouth full of Tic Tacs,” I will tend to believe her. But when the Columbia School of Journalism investigated this infamous rape on campus article and found it to be riddled with problems, I had to think twice. Or, as the Flapper always said, “Believe half of what you see and nothing of what you hear.”

The problem of confirmation bias – the tendency of people to be trapped by pre-existing assumptions and to select facts that support their own views while overlooking contradictory ones – is a well-established finding of social science. It seems to have been a factor here. Erdely (the reporter) believed the university was obstructing justice. She felt she had been blocked. Like many other universities, UVA had a flawed record of managing sexual assault cases. Jackie’s experience seemed to confirm this larger pattern. Her story seemed well established on campus, repeated and accepted.   http://www.cjr.org/investigation/rolling_stone_investigation.php

Journalists everywhere have learned their lesson from this case. Just because someone sounds like they are telling you the truth and only the truth, and you want to be sensitive to a rape victim, you must still verify the story. Even though independent news outlets have been gobbled up by mega media corporations, and so many beat reporters have been eliminated from courthouses and borough halls, and the world of “putting to bed” a story at midnight in newsprint, has changed to an online rush of clicks and scathing comments…this one basic truth remains. 

I was taught to get at least 3 corroborating interviews on any story. Fact checking is a basic technique that we the readers must demand, particularly considering our own confirmation bias, in this world of Trumped-up half-truths. I thought you might enjoy some of my old campaign buttons.  http://www.poynter.org/2016/its-time-to-fact-check-all-the-news/426261/  img_5487

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What a glorious morning in the Blue Ridge. I’ve been sitting out on the deck with Ms Bean watching golden leaves drift by and listening to the rustle of oak trees in the wind. Soon I will have to bring the plants in from the porch, but for now, this is my season. Warm, sunny days and cool nights, Fall in Virginia is at its most elegant. Only the recurring theme of rape brings my autumn rhapsody to an end, and sends me upstairs to write.

Maybe it’s because we were sailing the Danube when a Stanford swimmer was on trial for raping an unconscious girl behind a dumpster, or maybe it’s just because I’ve been too politically plugged in to think about anything else, but today’s news caught my attention. Brock Turner, the rapist/swimmer, has been released from jail and is registering himself as a sex offender in Ohio. There are a few things about this case I find abhorrent.

First, in the state of California, if you rape an unconscious girl, they assume she has given her consent because she can’t say, “No.” Should I say that again? There are a few states that have crafted laws like this, what shall we call it, the “I Can’t Say No” clause? So, this gentleman was charged with a “sexual assault,” not “rape.” Still, this is how the FBI describes rape – “…penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

Nothing about the ability to talk, in fact we know some women are so terrified they cannot utter a word. In this case, the woman was “lucky” two men saw her being raped, and chased down the predator. Because if that had not happened, this would have just been another post-party night on campus. The unnamed young victim read a lengthy letter to Turner at sentencing, this is a small part:

According to him, the only reason we were on the ground was because I fell down. Note; if a girl falls down help her get back up. If she is too drunk to even walk and falls down, do not mount her, hump her, take off her underwear, and insert your hand inside her vagina. If a girl falls down help her up.

Three months in jail, a slap on the wrist. Boys will be boys will be sex offenders for life.

Let’s leap across the country to New Hampshire, to another white, privileged incidence of rape that has shocked suburbia. This week the victim of last year’s St Paul’s prep rape case went public. A very brave Chessy Prout, who is only 17 now, was a 15 year old Freshman at the prestigious school when she became a victim of something called the “Senior Salute,” where upperclassmen try to hook up with the new students. Owen Labrie, a 20 year old who looks like a student at Hogwarts, was sentenced to one year in prison after he was found on a train violating his bail. Poor boy, he was only trying to visit his girlfriend at Harvard. http://www.today.com/news/chessy-prout-st-paul-s-school-assault-survivor-sheds-anonymity-t102326

And skipping back a century, if you’ve been following any of Downton’s marathon episodes over Labor Day weekend, you may have been reminded of the lady’s maid, Anna, who was raped downstairs during a concert upstairs. It happened in the second episode of Season Four, and I happened to watch a bit while Bob was working. How could I forget the intrigue of the rapist’s untimely death, the aftermath of arrests at the castle? Who did push the rapist off a train platform to a very Anna Karenina end? Was it Anna, or her husband Mr Bates?

Rape happened in the Bible, and lest you think we’ve figured it out, it wasn’t until 1998 when the state of Mississippi struck down its law that a rape could only be proved if a woman was “pure.” And let’s all thank “King Edward I of England (who) was a forward-thinking chap. He enacted the landmark Statutes of Westminster at the end of the 13th century. They redefined rape as a public wrong, not just a private property battle. The legislation also cut out the virgin distinction and made consent irrelevant for girls under 12…” http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2012/08/men-defining-rape-history

If you haven’t sat down to talk with your high school and college Freshmen, boys and girls, about these things, you had better plan some time over Parent’s Weekend. Tell them if a girl falls down, pick her up. This was the view from my kitchen last night. Apricot night skies and buttercream mornings. img_5153

 

 

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The talk of the town is last night’s article about Greek life and the nuanced acceptance of a rape culture at UVA. http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/a-rape-on-campus-20141119?page=6

It’s a long and grueling read interspersed with an old Rugby Road drinking song which was only recently banned from football games. It tells the story of a First Year girl who was brutally gang raped at a Phi Kappa Psi fraternity party in 2012. She tells her friends and a Dean and is gently persuaded not to press charges for a myriad of reasons – her reputation, loyalty to the school and fear of not rushing a sorority, ruining the boys’ lives and on and on.

Last night that fraternity house on Rugby Road was vandalized. I imagine some group of angry young women was seeking revenge. President Sullivan has issued a statement that appears to be too little and way too late.

I was a freshman at Emerson College in 1966 in Boston. But we had a curfew in our dorms and the trolleys and underground MTA stopped working at midnight. It was a different age, but the drinking games at MIT across the Charles were the same. The consequences were a bit different. Girls got married quickly pre-birth control. Some obtained illegal abortions and had their fertility compromised. Some may have been raped, but I didn’t know or hear of anyone victimized in that way.

And Time wants to ban the word “Feminism.”

It’s hard to read that young men can still behave like they are entitled to sexual favors simply because they belong to an elite Greek brotherhood at this prestigious public university.

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Extra extra, read all about it! I’ve been reading about the comparisons to Steubenville for awhile. So it comes as no surprise that A) Anonymous has taken up the plight of two young girls in Maryville, Missouri and 2) the alleged rapists are football players. What is surprising, besides our government being open for business this morning, is that the Nodaway County Prosecutor who dismissed the case, has now asked the court for a special prosecutor to review the facts.http://edition.cnn.com/2013/10/16/us/missouri-rape-case/

Nodaway County, nod.away, could the name get any more Shakespearian?

I won’t bore you with the facts as we know them so far. Except for the fact that the encounter was filmed, in a similar vein to Steubenville, but the video was erased that same evening and evidently cannot be retrieved. Maybe these football players are smarter than their Ohio counterparts…maybe the detectives at “Law and Order, SVU” should be called in? I’m not going to reiterate my previous opinions – that “NO” means “no” and  “…a rape is a rape is a rape, no matter who you are or where you live.” https://mountainmornings.net/2013/01/04/a-rape-is-a-rape/

What I do want to focus on here is the Holy Grail of high school, football. Because it’s usually not the captain of the chess club who finds himself hauled into court over a sex crime is it. I was reading a fascinating article about our American obsession with sports on the bike the other day, I know, the irony. Still, Amanda Ripley of the Atlantic makes an excellent argument against school sports in her article “The Case Against High School Sports.” http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/10/the-case-against-high-school-sports/309447/

Sports are embedded in American schools in a way they are not almost anywhere else. Yet this difference hardly ever comes up in domestic debates about America’s international mediocrity in education…When I surveyed about 200 former exchange students last year, in cooperation with an international exchange organization called AFS, nine out of 10 foreign students who had lived in the U.S. said that kids here cared more about sports than their peers back home did. A majority of Americans who’d studied abroad agreed.

This is required reading for everybody since Ripley dares to expose the tax money we Americans spend on athletics, which includes coaches, buses to away games etc (instead of say, math) and the culture that goes along with an adoration of the body and not the mind. She shows us what happens when administrators  in failing schools actually suspend sports – surprise, discipline reports go way down, while teachers’ salaries went up along with their students’ academic scores.

And here is my last lesson. As the budget talks are stalled on the Hill in a Hail Mary pass from a team of women Senators, and before we start slashing music and art budgets in public schools around the country, I think every single school board member from Albemarle to Marin County should find out exactly how much their district is spending on sports. Subs usually are hired for the days a teacher travels to a game, finding and maintaining playing fields can be costly. There are insurance costs and athletic supplies and trainers, a sports budget can also hide under other line items, you’ll have to dig deep.

Schools have been known to spend a quarter of a million dollars to install and maintain a running track around a football field. I know.

Because at the end of the day, if we want to compete on a global level and we want our daughters to feel valued, we may have to revisit a creeping patriarchy that began with private schools at the turn of the last century. The fear of new immigrants led Teddy Roosevelt to say about the American Boy – “Hit the line hard; don’t foul out; don’t shirk.” He should have added, don’t rape.

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