Protecting institutions must start with accountability

With the parade of accusers testifying at the trial of Larry Nassar, the US Olympic gymnastic physician who sexually assaulted hundreds of young females, the finger is now being pointed back at Michigan State University, his employer. The university leadership allegedly did not take seriously previous accusations. It is alleged MSU brushed it under the rug to protect the institution.

The same could be said about Barry Bennell, an elite youth soccer (football) coach in the UK who sexually abused young boys for decades and yet no one did anything about it. Or, Penn State University where the University President and legendary football coach turned a blind eye toward Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of young boys and men. And, by far the worst example is the Catholic Church which long knew of sexual assault in their ranks and chose to hide it, move priests around or, in a horrible failure, try to train the sexual proclivity out of the predatory priest.

Now, the #metoo movement is providing support, encouragement and a window for women and men to come forward. And, they need that support. Harvey Weinstein is more than an individual predator, he represents a business, as do Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Roger Ailes, Charlie Rose, etc. These men represent institutions that have revenue streams and reputations that are bigger than that of the individuals.

What happens to the victims who dare come forward are they run up against institutions that first and foremost think of protecting their reputations and/ or revenue streams. Weinstein had a mountain of people helping him threaten and pay off victims who accused him. The movie “Spotlight” on the investigative work of The Boston Globe (about sexual abuse by priests) revealed how there was a secret list of about ninety priests in the Boston area who were known by the church as to having sexually abused young boys as the church settled the cases.

The first step to addressing these issues must be for the institutions to be accountable. They must investigate these accusations with accountability, responsibility and due diligence. If they find fault, they need to admit it and take action. If they do not, the institution betrays the trust of people who support that institution. Leaving a predator in place is beyond poor stewardship, it is criminal.

The movie that angers me more than any other is called “Mea Maxima Culpa,” about the sexual abuse by a Catholic priest in a Milwaukee home for deaf boys in the 1960s. It is revealed later that some church leadership knew of the abuse and did not act. Sadly, there was a similar home for deaf boys near The Vatican that had the same kind of abuse. What would Jesus do? – he would not let a predator prey on more children.

Sexual assaulters prey on people. They use their power of control to abuse, silence, deny, defame and refute their victims. And, if needed, they pay off the victims asking for silence in return. Institutions must stand up more for their victims and less for the assaulters they employ. Believing the predator will stop after a settlement has been proven time and again to be a pipe dream.

To close, I am reminded of the true story of the Irish singer Sinead O’Connor, who effectively ended her soaring career when she tore up a picture of the Pope on live TV in protest over the silence of church leadership on sexual abuse by Irish priests and other failures. She was booed off every stage after that and unjustly ridiculed. Twenty years later after the Irish priest scandal broke, she was proven correct. Yet, how many more boys were sexually abused in those twenty years?

This story is why it is important. How can these institutions and companies allow these predators to abuse more children and adults after they know? Again, that is criminal, in my mind. Sadly, these kinds of sexual assaults occur too often in everyday organizations affecting everyday workers. We must shine spotlights on these activities and efforts to mask them from the public if not remedied.

The more common sexual misconduct

Sexual misconduct awareness is arguably the story of 2017. Men of renown or in public service have been called on the carpet for past misdeeds, almost always losing their jobs or status. Yet, the more common stories are the countless male managers, supervisors or peers in a host of industries, retail stores, restaurants, manufacturing plants et al, who have preyed on women (and men) simply because the victims were powerless.

On Friday, a story hit the airwaves about Ford manufacturing plants where managers sexually assaulted and harassed female workers. Several allowed a culture of sexual harassment to occur and be perpetuated by peer male workers. A couple of examples stuck with me. A woman starting work would hear “fresh meat” being yelled at her by her male peers as she walked into the plant. Another woman said she had to sleep with her boss to get a schedule that would permit her to drop off and pick up her child from daycare.

For every Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Bill Cosby or Donald Trump, there are thousands of men who abuse their power and sexually harass women every day. The women have little choice as the jobs that pay the same are scarce. Or, they may be working for the main employer in a small town. So, many have to make a decision to acquiesce to a manager, put up with that environment or leave. Reporting the issue to HR may prove futile or backfire on the woman, especially if the employer has more clout in a small town.

Fortunately, more voices are being heard. We are at a tipping point, but it will have to be a long game to make the needed dramatic impact. As citizens, we must hold our leaders accountable. It matters not what tribe they belong to, meaning political party. As employees, we must not perpetuate or condone a sexual harassing environment, nor can we remain silent if we know of sexual assault.

The “times they are a changin” sang a Nobel prize winning songwriter in the 1960s. It could be sung now as well. But, maybe the anthem from a female songwriter from the early 1970s should be loudly vocalized. Helen Reddy sang, “I am woman hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore.” Amen, sister.

Saturday solutions for stewing

Get out your crock pots and Dutch ovens! It is time to stew a few ideas throughout the day to see if they have merit. This is not intended to solve world problems, but are some changes that might help. We can only try.

I love Pope Francis. He is entertaining the idea to slightly alter the end of the Lord’s Prayer. It sounds reasonable, but here is a more provocative change that will help many Catholics – allow Priests to be married again. What you might say, again? Yes, Priest were married until the 1100s, when it was banned, with some continuing to be married into the 1500s, as they did not get the memo. This would reduce pedophilia in the Priesthood and attract a more community-minded type of minister, who knows about the trials and tribulations of relationships.

Money and the influence it buys is a huge problem in the US. Here are a few changes. Pass a 28th amendment that says money does not equate to free speech and overturns Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions by the Supreme Court. The former greases the skids for dark money and the latter lets big donors influence local races they have nothing to do with. If you are not a voter in that location, you should not be able to fund the race. The other amendment is to shorten the election process and offer term limits as we do for the President. This will be cheered by many. Twelve years is enough for a Senator and Congressperson.

The Washington Post did an in-depth piece that counted the number of out-and-out, provable lies made by the last two Presidents. Our friend Gronda did an excellent piece on this last week*. The verdict, Obama in eight years had 18 lies, averaging to two per year. In ten months, Trump had 103. To add to this, a study was done by Politifacts that concluded Trump lies 69% of the time as President and 70% of the time as a candidate. But, this is not new, as his five biographers and ghost writer for “The Art of the Deal” said Trump has a problem with the truth. Stew on this comment – if you see Trump talking or read his tweeting, the odds are that he is lying. He said the FBI is in tatters, which is directly contradicted by two people he appointed – Jeff Sessions and Chris Wray, the head of Justice and FBI. He also keeps saying there is no collusion….

Finally, the best line I heard by a pundit was quite simple. People considering running for office – if you have sexually assaulted or harassed someone in the past – please save us the time and you the embarrassment and do not run for office. It will come out. I personally do not know why supporters of Roy Moore and Donald Trump cannot fathom that they each sexually assaulted and harassed women. The sad truth is one got elected and one almost did. But, neither should have won as both are men of little character. We have not heard the last of Trump’s travails, although he will deny it.

* https://grondamorin.com/2017/12/15/the-truth-about-president-trump-versus-president-obama/

Wednesday Wanderings

One of my favorite hiking shirts draws comments given the slogan on the back – “all who wander are not lost.” In search for the right alliterative match to a Wednesday review of various and sundry topics, allow me to walk out “wanderings.” So, lace up your hiking boots and lets wander a bit.

Decency Won: The Senate vote in Alabama had a pleasant surprise with Doug Jones defeating Roy Moore in a close race. I applaud the citizens of Alabama for doing the right thing. Retiring Republican Senator Jeff Flake said, “Decency won.” This says it all. For those Moore proponents who say Moore is a fine man, that may be the case, but the three words that come to my mind are “bigotry, unlawfulness, pedophilia.” The middle word is overlooked as the former Judge was fired twice for disobeying the law. We all must obey the laws whether or not we agree with them, but especially our judges and senators. Jones is a good man and public servant.

Emmanuel Macron assumes a Climate Leadership role: A continuing frustration is the ceding by the US President of our leadership role in the world. Pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Accord is a key example of this, as the US President is too beholden to fossil fuel interests and money. French President Emmanuel Macron hosted a meeting this week where foreign leaders discussed dealing with climate change and a noticeable absence was Donald Trump, who was not invited. The US had people there, but not in a capacity of the federal government. The US is no longer at the adult table. Macron has followed through on inviting renowned scientists to conduct research in France and, out of eighteen grant recipients, 13 of them came from the US. Fortunately, good things are happening even in the US, but it would be nice if the federal government aided and abetted this important cause and did not throw up road blocks.

Nevada legislature reverses utility anti-neutral pricing on solar energy: In a huge change, the Nevada governor signed earlier this year a bipartisan law to overturn a highly contentious and job-impacting utility decision to pay solar energy homeowners less than they charge back for electricity. In short, when the sun shines more power is produced than needed and is sold to the utility. When the homeowner needs more electricity they buy it back from the utility who had been charging a higher rate after their decision. This cost jobs and new development and it did not take the legislature long to realize the sun shines a lot in Nevada and this is where the cheaper and cleaner energy future resides. So, they passed a law to get back to neutral pricing or close thereto, giving the utility a minor transaction fee. Now, the solar energy boon which stalled as a result of the utility action, has taken off again.

Joe Biden is a class act: Former Vice President Joe Biden is making the talk show circuit to discuss his new book about his relationship with his son Beau who died of brain cancer. When he stopped by “The View,” during the discussion Meghan McCain, daughter of Senator John McCain, broke down as she describe her father having the same cancer as Beau. Biden switched chairs with one of the co-hosts and comforted her and spoke to her and the audience. He said many encouraging words to give her hope and strength, but added her father was his best friend. If he ever needed him, John McCain would be there for him. His son Beau idolized McCain and spoke of his courage. Biden said John and him were brothers of a different father. They would argue over things, but deeply respect each other.

Thanks for wandering about with me. Please feel free to offer some of your reactions and wanderings.

Side of the Angels – Richard Shelby

I am not a huge fan of many of the positions of Republican Senator Richard Shelby, the senior Senator from Alabama. He tends to unyieldingly favor the banking industry at the expense of better regulations, for example.

Yet, I must give him a huge shout out for his political courage yesterday. He went on a televised political talk show to state his opposition to Senate candidate Roy Moore in his home state. He noted that he will not be voting for Moore saying the Republican Party can do better than this and he feels there must be a fire under so much smoke of sexual assault and harassment of teen girls. He will be writing in the name of another candidate.

I sent him note complimenting his courage as he will likely be unmercifully demeaned by the President, Steve Bannon and other Republicans. I mentioned the President has no currency on this issue. I told him he is on the “side of the Angels” on this and should be commended.

If Moore wins, there are four big losers. Our country loses as we seat a Senator who was banned from a mall for his trolling of young girls. Doubting Alabama voters should ask themselves why that happened? The state of Alabama loses as this is the third recent episode of sexual impropriety or corruption in elected officials, the latest being the previous Governor who had to resign.

The other two losers must be noted. Common decency loses. Our leaders need to be the best of us, not the worst of us. The office is more important than the incumbent, so when it is defamed, the incumbent needs to resign.

The final loser would be the Republican Party. With an incumbent President who has admitted to and boasted of sexual assault that he has been accused of and Moore, this makes the party look extremely poor. The image will echo for some time and should.

So, kudos to Senator Shelby. You are trying to serve your constituents and your oath.

Moore and Alabama Republicans

It was reported yesterday that ex-Judge Roy Moore is believed by 71% of Alabama Republicans. These folks believe all of the women who have come forward have fabricated his pedophile and teen trolling tendencies as a Democrat plot to smear him.

I have one simple question for the Alabama Republicans who are parents and grandparents. Would you right now trust Roy Moore to give your teen daughter a ride home? While we are at it, would you let Donald Trump give her a ride home?

If you can honestly answer the first question yes, then you may want to consider why women like these are all coming forward at great pains to describe sexual assault or harassment by men such as Weinstein, Cosby, O’Reilly, Ailes, Rose, Lauer, Franken, Conyers, and, yes, Trump and Moore. The reason as to why now is they finally believe their voice will be heard.

To be frank, Moore has been very self-incriminating in his responses to questions. He has provided confusing responses about whether he knew these women as girls. And, his reputation as a teen girl troll seems to have been known to more than a few. This indicates the power of a local DA, since, no one took the time to directly accuse him and tell him to cease and desist.

People will vote the way the want, but I would encourage folks to reconsider that ride home question. Would you let your teen daughter ride home with Roy Moore? My answer is clear – I would not trust Moore or Trump with my daughter at any age. It is that simple. And, neither of these men deserve to be in public office.

Men in power who don’t listen for the word no

I heard a quote from a women’s panel on sexual harassment and assault this morning and it is sealed in my brain. “Pandora’s Box is open and Pandora is pissed off.” I was thinking about this quote as I am disturbed after the revelations that veteran and award-winning journalist Charlie Rose was accused of sexual harassment and assault by eight women. This is like finding out your favorite uncle has done some bad things. But, even Rose does not get a hall pass for his behavior.

More women are feeling empowered to tell their stories that they have been tortured by for many years. Too many have been shamed into changing jobs, derailing careers, and losing their esteem because men in power are “not listening for the word no.” Whether they are in politics, business, religion, law, teaching, or run a store, restaurant or plant, men in power are used to hearing the word “yes” by subordinates. The more powerful they become, the more insulated they feel from culpability.

As a young District Attorney, Senate candidate Roy Moore felt insulated as he trolled the malls creepily looking for pretty teen girls he could influence. He said to several who balked at his advances to remember that “I am the DA and no one will believe you.” Arkansas Governor and President Bill Clinton used his sway to garner consensual sex with subordinates in administration and is alleged to have tried advances on women who were not consensual.

But, the one whose behavior disgusts me the most is the Man in the White House. Not only has he admitted to sexually assaulting and harassing women on several occasions (people tend to forget the Howard Stern interview admissions in light of the Access Hollywood tape), he bragged about being able to do it and not get caught. And, as for his defense that the Access Hollywood tape was “just locker room talk,” I personally find that a load of BS as I have never heard such talk in a locker room.

When his boasts are compared to the accusations by sixteen women, some who came forward before the Access Hollywood tape surfaced, it is uncanny how Trump describes precisely what he is accused of. But, these were not just adults. He bragged (and was accused) of his penchant to walk into beauty pageant dressing rooms to see the unclothed contestants. Mind you, he did this with the Miss Teen USA pageant, as well.

Pandora has the right to be pissed. CBS, PBS and Bloomberg have all fired Rose. I think Alabamans need to tell Moore that he is not worthy of being a Senator. While I love Al Franken, he needs to step down or announce he will when a replacement is found. And, the accusations of one Donald Trump need to resurface and his resignation needs to be demanded. They will not get it, but if others are being held accountable, then so should he. Then, other male managers may get scared straight to hearing the word “no.”