An Opera Superstar and a Progressive go into a Bar…

Checking a couple of recent news stories…

“Placido Domingo’s name comes up in Argentina sex sect probe” (state-sponsored PBS)

Opera star Placido Domingo’s name has appeared in an investigation of a sect-like organization in Argentina that also had U.S. offices and whose leaders have been charged with crimes, including sexual exploitation.

Domingo, the Spanish opera singer who has faced accusations of sexual harassment from numerous women over the past three years, has not been accused of any wrongdoing in the Argentina case.

“Placido didn’t commit a crime, nor is he part of the organization, but rather he was a consumer of prostitution,” said a law enforcement official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because the investigation continues. Prostitution is not illegal in Argentina.

The article says that “children or teenagers … were sexually exploited”. Placido Domingo is, thus, a child molester? The specific person who visited the opera star in his hotel room is named: Susana Mendelievich. How old is this teenager? In 1990, she was old enough to play the piano (source). Operawire reports that she is today 75 years old.

The great opera star, in other words, is accused of paying for sex with a 75-year-old.

“Social Media Was a C.E.O.’s Bullhorn, and How He Lured Women” (New York Times):

Kacie Margis [27 years old], a model and artist, first learned about Dan Price in 2020 the way many people do: through social media posts that celebrated his progressive politics.

Five years earlier, Mr. Price had propelled himself to an unlikely position for the head of a 110-person payment processing company when he told his employees that he was raising their minimum pay to $70,000. His announcement was covered by The New York Times and NBC News. Esquire did a photo shoot. He made appearances on “The Daily Show” and at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

On Monday, the police in Palm Springs, Calif., said they had referred Ms. Margis’s case to local prosecutors, recommending a charge of rape of a drugged victim.

What harmful drugs did the Progressive icon employ in his nefarious scheme? For those who had the patience to read another 7 screens of text:

Ms. Margis returned to Room 423, where she took a cannabis edible to counter insomnia, something she’s regularly done since being at the 2017 mass shooting at a Las Vegas music festival. Mr. Price returned and tried to initiate sex.

I’m wondering if this is at odds with Science. Marijuana is such an important booster of overall health that marijuana stores were “essential” and, at least in California, Illinois, and Maskachusetts, remained open on every day that public schools were closed. This is a Scientific fact and it is reflected in Science-guided policies designed and imposed by politicians and officials who Follow the Science. But, simultaneously, a different branch of the same Science-following government considers healing cannabis to be drug that leaves a person mentally and physically incapacitated, unable to resist a sexual assault.

Moving on to one of the other victims… Serena Jowers, also mentioned in the article as having provided sex to the Progressive CEO without an explicit fee being charged:

Unless we want to say that, just as being elderly makes a person better suited to being President of the United States being elderly makes a person better at having sex, it seems that sending out a handful of Progressive tweets yields a superior return in the sexual marketplace than a lifetime spent honing one’s craft as an opera singer.

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#MeToo would like $3.5 million (where your donations to nonprofit organizations go)

Feel better about your charitable donations to the nonprofit Metropolitan Opera: “The Met Opera Fired James Levine, Citing Sexual Misconduct. He Was Paid $3.5 Million.” (NYT) Excerpts:

After ill health forced Mr. Levine to repeatedly cancel performances and miss two full seasons, he had reluctantly agreed to become music director emeritus. He would continue to oversee the young artist program he had founded and to conduct many of his signature operas, with a gala celebration of the 50th anniversary of his 1971 Met debut on the horizon.

Mr. Levine’s continued role came at considerable cost to the company. In addition to his $400,000 salary, the Met agreed to pay him his customary $27,000 fee for each performance he conducted — $10,000 more than what the Met usually described in public as its top fee.

That arrangement came to an abrupt end in December 2017, after The New York Times published the accounts of four men who said that they had been sexually abused by Mr. Levine as teenagers; Mr. Levine denied the accusations.

Just a good business decision?

The Met’s multimillion-dollar payment to Mr. Levine came before the coronavirus pandemic forced the company to close its theater — leaving many employees, including its orchestra and chorus, furloughed without pay since April. Even when the deal was struck, the Met’s finances were precarious. Now the company is fighting for its survival.


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What happened at the Harvey Weinstein trial?

I saw from the headlines that the Harvey Weinstein trial in New York is over (but he still has one or more to go in California?). I hadn’t followed the case because the judge said prior to the trial that Harvey was going to spend the rest of his life in prison (Vice); it was only a question of whether it would be for using his phone in the courtroom or something related to the transactional sex that we read about (and would a jury who got even a quick look at the obese elderly Harvey need convincing that sex in which he was participating was transactional?).

Given that the outcome was predetermined, was there anything new that came out?

Separately, back in 2017 I asked “Where can Harvey Weinstein go for a peaceful retirement?”. It turns out that Harvey might have accidentally escaped prosecution if he’d followed his political heart. From a September 2016 article:

Talk turned from Oscar voters to American voters as fervent democrat Weinstein, appearing in Switzerland for the European premiere of the Garth Davis directed drama, was asked if he’d move to Canada if Donald Trump were elected US president.

“I’ve known Hillary Clinton 20 years. The allegations about her being untrustworthy are not true,” he said.

“I don’t think anything she did [with email servers] was intentional. The Clinton Global Initiative has the highest rating of any charity in America, and probably as good as any charity in the world, and I’m proud I’m part of that too.

“It’s insane that she doesn’t have the trustworthiness and it’s the only thing keeping her from winning. I don’t want to move to Canada, but I certainly don’t want to see Donald Trump [win] with bigotry and racism.”

Weinstein, who has hosted Clinton fundraisers this year, continued: “This is the worst I’ve ever seen it. This is not Mitt Romney or Robert Dole, or anybody you could afford to have as president.”

The Oscar season veteran didn’t mince his words when it came to Clinton’s opponent.

“Ronald Reagan ran the country and it survived. This is not George W. Bush. This is really serious. It’s somebody appealing to the worst in us.”

Mr. Weinstein, at least, seems to be living proof of the wisdom of fleeing the Trump Presidency (though perhaps it would be better to choose a country other than Canada, e.g., one without an extradition treaty with the U.S.).

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Evolution of Scholarly Opinion

“Rape-Prevention Scholar Who ‘Celebrated #MeToo’ Is Accused of Sexual Assault and Harassment” (Chronicle of Higher Education; paywalled, but this link might still work):

[Erin] O’Callaghan has accused Schewe, an associate professor of criminology whose research specialty is sexual-assault prevention, of assaulting her in November 2017.

Schewe has vigorously denied that claim, and Title IX investigators exonerated him after concluding that O’Callaghan’s most serious accusation — that Schewe undressed her and started to perform oral sex on her when she was too drunk to consent — could not be substantiated.

Schewe, who is in his early 50s and has worked in the field for more than a quarter-century, regards the implications of the movement differently now that he stands accused.

“I celebrated #MeToo. I thought, ‘Yes! Victims are finally being believed and men are being called out for their shitty behavior. This is fantastic,’” he said in an interview last week with The Chronicle. But the side effect of that, he said, “is that people are now guilty by accusation.”

(“guilty by association” with the drunk woman’s naked body?)

Working from a base of decades of scholarly inquiry, #BelieveWomen turns out to have some subtle exceptions:

He told Title IX investigators that he has devoted his life “to preventing violence against women” and is inclined ”to believe survivors” — even as he dismissed O’Callaghan’s accusations as “something she largely created in her own mind.”

But in his interview with The Chronicle, Schewe said: “If she would have told me that a professor got her drunk and took advantage of her, I would give her support. I would believe her.”

To Schewe, his ordeal is evidence that it’s gone too far. “Maybe it’s a warning to everybody that nobody is safe in the #MeToo era,” Schewe said. And his takeaway? “That guys should stay away from any woman because they have the potential to destroy their life with a couple of words with no consequence to them.”

Life at the University of Illinois can be cozy, at least for those who are not so drunk as to have forgotten most of it:

The lawsuit states that O’Callaghan, who had consumed one or two drinks at Schewe’s apartment [after five or six drinks at a bar], fell asleep on the couch. At some point the rest of the guests went on a late-night food run, leaving O’Callaghan and Schewe alone.

Schewe, intoxicated and “extremely tired,” said he lay down on his bed. He said that O’Callaghan followed him into the bedroom, took off her jeans, and climbed into bed with him.

“Nothing happened, of course,” Schewe told The Chronicle. “Being a sexual-assault-prevention researcher, I knew that there was no safer place that she could be.”

O’Callaghan says in the lawsuit that while she does not recall how she ended up in Schewe’s bed, she remembers that at some point, he “entered the bedroom, laughed, pulled her pants and underwear down, and performed oral sex on her, all without consent.” That’s when O’Callaghan says she blacked out.

Who paid for all of these drinks, you might ask? The taxpayers of Illinois! They’re on the hook to pay lawyers to defend the university from the referenced lawsuit. They’ll also be paying their share of the salaries of judges and other Federal court officials. They’re paying the accused scholar’s salary and benefits while he is “on administrative leave”. They’ll each work a few extra hours in 2020 if there is a fat settlement for the plaintiffs.

(Practical tip in case someone complains about the contents of your PC’s hard drive:

In his statement to the Title IX investigators and his interview with The Chronicle, Schewe dismissed many of the women’s claims outright. No, he did not offer cocaine to Kirkner and Lorenz, nor did he make the remark Lorenz’s partner attributed to him after her dissertation defense. While it’s possible Lorenz saw a nude woman on his desktop-computer screen, such images are common in work on rape prevention and teaching safe sex.

Another practical aspect of this is that the married guy in his early 50s (a “wife” is mentioned) was able to get a woman half his age to share his bed by expressing a passion for some female-oriented issues.)

The good news is that public radio will now have a little more color.

The lawsuit against Schewe, a clinical psychologist who has shared his expertise on rape prevention with such outlets as NPR and Quartz, is one of the more unusual sexual-misconduct cases confronting higher education. Schewe has served as director of the university’s Interdisciplinary Center for Research on Violence, and he recently co-edited the Handbook of Sexual Assault and Sexual Assault Prevention (Springer, 2019).


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1.5 billion Chinese people crowd into the “of color” category

“Harvey Weinstein Told Me He Liked Chinese Girls” (New York Times):

The second power imbalance was around race — the fact that Harvey was white and I was a person of color

With approximately 1.5 billion Chinese people worldwide, doesn’t this make the “Person of Color” category rather crowded?

The old fat guy has more money than the young lithe woman:

Finally, the wealth — Harvey was a multimillionaire, with all the influence money could buy. I was a fresh graduate loaded with student debt. Even during the few months I worked with him, I saw firsthand the influence that money could buy. Later, I was to discover that it could even buy silence.

The two adults have a late-night meeting in a hotel room:

At the Venice Film Festival later that year, these four power imbalances collided in a late-night meeting with Harvey. I had expected to discuss potential film productions and scripts, and we did. But after hours of fending off his chitchat, flattery, requests for massages and a bath, ultimately I found myself pushed back against the bed. I’d worn two pairs of tights for protection, and tried to appease him by taking one of them off and letting him massage me, but it hadn’t worked.

The young trim person is able to escape from the old morbidly obese person:

In the end, I was able to wriggle off the bed and leave

The financial power imbalance is rectified to a small extent:

when I finally signed the nondisclosure document, accepting a settlement of £125,000 (about $213,000) and agreeing to stay silent forever, the trauma was not yet over.

(If all of this happened 20 years ago, that’s roughly $332,000 in 2019 dollars.)

Get ready for a bunch more articles about Harvey and his hotel room companions:

Then, in September 2018, I watched another woman, Christine Blasey Ford, speak up about the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Coincidentally, only a few minutes from my house she was living the very existence I’d feared … In January, I had the privilege of sharing my story with Dr. Blasey and other survivors in a group interview conducted by Ms. Kantor and Ms. Twohey. … Since the story broke in October 2017, many actresses, from the relatively unknown to the superstars, have come out with stories about Harvey. Yet the stories of assistants have gotten relatively little attention by comparison, and tragically, even fewer of those voices have been of women of color.

Reading between the lines, it seems that the victim/author is living in Silicon Valley in a house with her four children. (i.e., depending on the house, she might well have reached the “multimillionaire” status with which she characterized the middle-aged Harvey Weinstein.)

Readers: Is it reasonable for a Chinese person to don the “person of color” victimhood mantle? Would the African Americans living in East St. Louis (murder rate 19X the U.S. average and exceeding that of Honduras, El Salvador, and other countries from which folks are seeking asylum due to violence) agree that they should be lumped together with the mom of four in a house in America’s most expensive neighborhood? Can my Chinese-American dermatologist and engineering Ph.D. friends also claim to be “of color”?

[If Asians are “of color,” why doesn’t Harvard want to admit them?]


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How did Christine Blasey Ford make it back and forth to Hawaii?

One of the obstacles to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testifying before the Senate yesterday was an inability to suffer the “confinement” of being in an airliner (see “Why won’t Claire McCaskill pick up Christine Blasey Ford in her Pilatus PC-12?”). She needed a few extra days to make the trip from California by car.

“Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford moved 3,000 miles to reinvent her life. It wasn’t far enough.” (Washington Post):

To many, Kavanaugh was a respected jurist. To her, he was the teenager who had attacked her when they were in high school.

Ford had already moved 3,000 miles away from the affluent Maryland suburbs where she says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a house party — a charge he would emphatically deny. Suddenly, living in California didn’t seem far enough. Maybe another hemisphere would be. She went online to research other democracies where her family might settle, including New Zealand.

“She was like, ‘I can’t deal with this. If he becomes the nominee, then I’m moving to another country. I cannot live in this country if he’s in the Supreme Court,’ ” her husband said. “She wanted out.”

To avoid 4.5-hours of confinement from SFO to IAD, she had planned to spend five days in a car, which was why she wouldn’t be available to testify on Monday, but she was planning on the transpacific flight to New Zealand? And then to fly for far longer than 4.5 hours any time she needed to go somewhere from NZ?

How about when the University of Southern California student who could not handle commercial airline travel was looking for a place to get some practical training?

When she moved to Hawaii for a one-year internship to complete her PhD — taking a cheap studio apartment within board-carrying distance of Sans Souci Beach — the conversion seemed complete.

She rejected all of the programs within the 49 states to which she could travel by land and selected one on the most isolated population center on Planet Earth? Could it be that she traveled back and forth to Hawaii as a passenger on a freighter? Came back for Thanksgiving with the parents in Maryland via the Panama Canal?

[Separately, though I find it interesting that so many Americans think that they can know the “truth” about a 36-year-old event that occurred in private (maybe with some help from the same FBI team who investigated (and cleared) Tamerlan Tsarnaev), I was never a supporter of Judge Kavanaugh for any job. His August 15, 1998 letter filled with moral indignation about Bill Clinton “having sex with a 22-year-old intern” was a deal-killer for me right from the start. I never thought that investigating the sexual opportunities that were available to a president was a good use of taxpayer funds (it wouldn’t have made sense even as a political ploy; success in getting Bill Clinton impeached would have ensured a victory for Al Gore, running as an incumbent, in 2000). And moral indignation seems like hypocrisy to me when it comes from people who didn’t have those opportunities. I periodically see posts on Facebook from a guy who used his position as a professor to obtain sex from a variety of comely undergraduates. Now he is outraged about Trump. But if you’d given this guy a personal Boeing 757, billions in cash, and a vast Manhattan apartment, it is quite possible that he would have tapped into a much larger array of women than Donald Trump ever did. Anyone other than a movie star or sports hero who criticizes Bill Clinton is pretty much in the same category as this Facebook blowhard. Of the people who were mentioned as possible nominess, Amy Coney Barrett is my personal favorite (see “Amy Coney Barrett nomination would stop working parents from demanding more help?“), though, since I’m not a senator, I haven’t educated myself on her record as a judge.]


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Harvey in Rehab

Happy Halloween! What are the two things that scare Americans more than anything else? How about “opera” and “Harvey Weinstein”?

What if we were to combine the two?

Could this be a conventional Verdi-, Puccini-, or Mozart-style opera with a plot that unfolds chronologically? Plainly not: the allegations about Harvey came out during one week but they covered a period of 30 years (Washington Post).

Unlike Trump: the Opera, therefore, this should be a non-narrative work along the lines of Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach. From Wikipedia:

The opera eschews traditional narrative in favor of a formalist approach based on structured spaces laid out by [Robert] Wilson in a series of storyboards. … It is Glass’s first and longest opera score, taking approximately five hours in full performance without intermission; given the length, the audience is permitted to enter and leave as desired.

in the absence of a storyline attached to his image. While they did incorporate symbols from Einstein’s life within the opera’s scenery, characters, and music, they intentionally chose not to give the opera a specific plot. This is in accord with Wilson’s formalist approach, which he asserts creates more truth on stage than naturalist theater

How about an opera titled Harvey in Rehab? The stage will be broken up into three spaces:

  • Center: Harvey in a group therapy session at a clinic for sex addicts.
  • Stage left: Hotel room into which actresses come and go. At random intervals an assistant comes in to give an actress a bale of cash.
  • Stage right: Domestic realm. Wife played by actress 24 years younger than actor playing Harvey sits in front of a 10-year alimony entitlement countdown clock. Two young children run around chased by three nannies.

A chorus of lawyers in pinstripe suits occupies a space suspended above the stage. Harvey wanders among the spaces in a bathrobe while the lawyers move their heads so as to track him carefully. Lawyers lower vacuum hoses at unpredictable times to pull cash out of Harvey’s pockets or from some of the cash bales that actresses are trying to carry out.

Teenage children from Marriage #1 sometimes enter the domestic realm from stage right, wait for Harvey to appear in that realm, silently remove cash from his bathrobe pockets, and depart. Every 30 minutes, the wife from Marriage #1 comes in with an attorney singing a demand for cash while the toddlers from Marriage #2 sing “Who is this lady and how does she know our dad?”

Ending: Young wife and various actresses simultaneously pull lawyers down from the heavens. They all rush at Harvey who attempts to flee to a waiting Gulfstream on a runway reading “KSMO” rolled out in front of the stage. As Harvey attempts to depart in the Gulfstream, however, a mob of angry Santa Monicans attack the runway with scissors. Harvey exits the Gulfstream, stumbles on the airstairs, and drops his two suitcases. They open upon hitting the ground, releasing a cloud of cash that obscures all of the players. The curtain falls.



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