Department of Understatement: Bill Gates and Jeffrey Epstein

From “Bill Gates Met With Jeffrey Epstein Many Times, Despite His Past” (NYT):

His lifestyle is very different and kind of intriguing although it would not work for me,” Mr. Gates emailed colleagues in 2011, after his first get-together with Mr. Epstein.

Almost as good as The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook:

Today I made a Black Forest cake out of five pounds of cherries and a live beaver, challenging the very definition of the word “cake.” I was very pleased. Malraux said he admired it greatly, but could not stay for dessert. Still, I feel that this may be my most profound achievement yet, and have resolved to enter it in the Betty Crocker Bake-Off.

Also in the article…

Mr. Gates, in turn, praised Mr. Epstein’s charm and intelligence. Emailing colleagues the next day, he said: “A very attractive Swedish woman and her daughter dropped by and I ended up staying there quite late.”

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Domestic violence hotline for the polyamorous

Back of a city bus in Harvard Square:

I posted this to Facebook with “Helpful phone number in case identifying as polyamorous leads to a domestic dispute”.

From the sponsor organization’s history page:

the wording of our mission was changed to explicitly name and acknowledge our ongoing work with gay, queer, polyamorous and SM communities.

Who wants to test the theory that “Love means my partner respects my identities” by walking in the front door and saying to one’s partner “Starting tonight, I identify as polyamorous”?

(Also, are people who engage in sadomasochism a “community”? See “Partner Abuse In SM Communities” from the same org.)

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Au Pair Infatuation

From a group instant messaging chat among some guys who have employed au pairs:

  • Father 1: I think one of our former Au Pair is infatuated with me. She has been tagging me on Facebook and sending me wishes and all sorts of stuff.
  • Father 2: we need a picture of this au pair!
  • Father 1: [includes photograph of slender long-haired woman with high cheekbones]
  • Father 2: where does she live now?
  • Father 1: Mexico.
  • Father 2: That sounds bad.
  • Father 2: You might have to go to Cancun to meet with her in a hotel room and sort this out.

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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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Richard Stallman on Jeffrey Epstein: time to switch from Emacs to vi?

“Renowned MIT Scientist Defends Epstein: Victims Were ‘Entirely Willing’” (Daily Beast):

An MIT engineering alumna, Selam Jie Gano, published a blog post calling for Stallman’s removal from the university in light of his comments, along with excerpts from the email in which Stallman appeared to defend both Epstein and Marvin Minsky, a lauded cognitive scientist and founder of MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Lab who was accused of assaulting Virginia Giuffre. Giuffre has alleged that sex offender and financier Epstein trafficked her to powerful men for sex, including Minsky, who died in 2016. She’s alleged that Epstein and his alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell recruited her at Mar-a-Lago when she was 16 years old.

Stallman wrote that “the most plausible scenario” for Giuffre’s accusations was that she was, in actuality, “entirely willing.” Vice’s Motherboard later reprinted the emails in full. Gano did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Stallman also wrote in the email exchange that “it is morally absurd to define ‘rape’ in a way that depends on minor details such as which country it was in or whether the victim was 18 years old or 17.”

[MIT President] Reif is facing calls to step down after acknowledging that the Media Lab accepted funds from Epstein long after his 2008 conviction for soliciting a minor for prostitution, with Reif’s own signature found on a 2012 note thanking Epstein for his generosity to the university.

Will there be a mass exodus from Emacs to vi (also known as “the Devil’s crummy text editor”)?

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  • “Please Do Not Buy Richard Stallman a Parrot And Other Rules” (Gizmodo): “If you can find a host for me that has a friendly parrot, I will be very very glad. If you can find someone who has a friendly parrot I can visit with, that will be nice too. DON’T buy a parrot figuring that it will be a fun surprise for me. To acquire a parrot is a major decision: it is likely to outlive you. If you don’t know how to treat the parrot, it could be emotionally scarred and spend many decades feeling frightened and unhappy. If you buy a captured wild parrot, you will promote a cruel and devastating practice, and the parrot will be emotionally scarred before you get it. Meeting that sad animal is not an agreeable surprise.”
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Kate Atkinson on modern romance and marriage

Indulging in a mystery for this cruise… From Big Sky by Kate Atkinson:

She was good at what she did—acrylics, gels, shellac, nail art—and was proud of the attention she gave to her job, even if trade was sparse. It was the first thing she’d ever done that didn’t involve selling her body in one way or another. Marriage to Tommy was a financial transaction too, of course, but to Crystal’s way of thinking, you could be lap dancing for the fat sweaty patron of a so-called gentlemen’s club or you could be greeting Tommy Holroyd with a peck on the cheek and hanging his jacket up before laying his dinner before him. It was all part of the same spectrum as far as Crystal was concerned, but she knew which end of it she preferred. And, to quote Tina Turner, what does love have to do with it? Fig all, that was what. There was no shame in marrying for money—money meant security. Women had been doing it since time began. You saw it on all the nature programs on TV—build me the best nest, do the most impressive dance for me, bring me shells and shiny things. And Tommy was more than happy with the arrangement—she cooked for him, she had sex with him, she kept house for him. And in return she woke up every morning and felt one step further away from her old self. History, in Crystal’s opinion, was something that was best left behind where it belonged.

Modern physical appearance?

Crystal was hovering around thirty-nine years old and it took a lot of work to stay in this holding pattern. She was a construction, made from artificial materials—the acrylic nails, the silicone breasts, the polymer eyelashes. A continually renewed fake tan and a hairpiece fixed into her bleached-blond hair completed the synthetic that was Crystal.

A man whose daughter has just finished high school…

He was grinding toward fifty and for the last three months he had been living in a one-bedroom flat behind a fish-and-chip shop, ever since Wendy turned to him one morning over his breakfast muesli—he’d been on a short-lived health kick—and said, “Enough’s enough, don’t you think, Vince?,” leaving him slack-mouthed with astonishment over his Tesco Finest Berry and Cherry. Ashley had just set off on her gap year, backpacking around Southeast Asia with her surfer boyfriend. As far as Vince could tell, “gap year” meant the lull between him funding her expensive private school and funding her expensive university, a remission that was nonetheless still costing him her airfares and a monthly allowance.

As soon as Ashley had fledged, on an Emirates flight to Hanoi, Wendy reported to Vince that their marriage was dead. Its corpse wasn’t even cold before she was internet dating like a rabbit on speed, leaving him to dine off fish and chips most nights and wonder where it all went wrong. (Tenerife, three years ago, apparently.) “I got you some cardboard boxes from Costcutter to put your stuff in,” she said as he stared uncomprehendingly at her. “Don’t forget to clear out your dirty clothes from the basket in the utility room. I’m not doing any more laundry for you, Vince. Twenty-one years a slave. It’s enough.” This, then, was the return on sacrifice. You worked all the hours God gave, driving hundreds of miles a week in your company car, hardly any time for yourself, so your daughter could take endless selfies in Angkor Wat or wherever and your wife could report that for the last year she had been sneaking around with a local café owner who was also one of the lifeboat crew, which seemed to sanction the liaison in her eyes. (“Craig risks his life every time he goes out on a shout. Do you, Vince?” Yes, in his own way.) It clipped at your soul, clip, clip, clip.

He had trudged through his life for his wife and daughter, more heroically than they could imagine, and this was the thanks he received. Couldn’t be a coincidence that “trudge” rhymed with “drudge.” He had presumed that there was a goal to be reached at the end of all the trudging, but it turned out that there was nothing—just more trudging.

Despite being 67, Atkinson is familiar with Internet app culture:

Craig, the lifeboat man, had been jettisoned apparently in favor of the smorgasbord of Tinder.

The book is consistent with the Real World Divorce section on England:

“If only I’d listened to my poor mother,” Wendy said as she itemized the belongings he was allowed to take with him. Wendy who was getting so much money in the settlement that Vince barely had enough left for his golf-club fees. “Best I can do, Vince,” Steve Mellors said, shaking his head sadly. “Matrimonial law, it’s a minefield.” Steve was handling Vince’s divorce for him for free, as a favor, for which Vince was more than grateful. Steve was a corporate lawyer over in Leeds, and didn’t usually “dabble in divorce.” Neither do I, Vince thought, neither do I.

Now that regular novels are mostly about LGBTQIA characters and people with glamorous urban jobs, maybe mystery novels will end up being the best record of cisgender heterosexual working class life in the 21st century? Certainly they have always covered people in social classes ignored by writers of typical literary novels.

More: Read Big Sky (or start with the first book in the series, Case Histories)

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Artificial Intelligence and commercial sex purportedly intersect

For anyone who knew Marvin, “AI pioneer accused of having sex with trafficking victim on Jeffrey Epstein’s island” is a surprise.

Apparently Jeffrey Epstein was using some of the money that he stole to run Templeton Foundation-style scientific gatherings in the Caribbean (funded with money that John Templeton earned and then skipped paying taxes on by renouncing his U.S. citizenship and relocating to the Bahamas). A woman now says that, as a 17-year-old, she was paid to have sex with the then-73-year-old Marvin Minsky at one of these gatherings. (There does not seem to be any evidence the Marvin ever left the mainland U.S. to hang out with Epstein, though.)

In the 40+ years that I saw Marvin, at his office, at his home, and at conferences, he never once took notice of a young woman or commented on the appearance of a woman. He was simply not very interested in matters of the flesh.

On a more practical level, if Marvin had wanted to have sex with 17-year-olds, he could have done so legally in Massachusetts, in which the age of consent is 16. (Prostitution per se is illegal in Massachusetts, but it wouldn’t be illegal for an older person to supply a young sex partner with gifts of jewelry, housing, transportation, vacation trips, etc. (though the real money would be in a pregnancy followed by harvesting the unlimited child support cash available under Massachusetts law)) There were also quite a few graduate students who had sexual relationships with successful academics and, lo and behold, found that the path to a tenure-track professorship was wide open. There was never any hint or rumor around Marvin of a sex-for-career-advancement exchange (or any other kind of affair).

Ever since Stormy Daniels dominated the mainstream media, I guess it isn’t surprising that people whose job is having sex in exchange for money are newsworthy. But if they’re claiming that they were paid to have sex with those who are deceased, and there is no evidence to support these claims, should reporters be broadcasting these tales? This is the first one about someone that I know personally and it rings false.

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Harvard Economics professor beats the sexual harassment rap

“Star Economist at Harvard Faces Sexual Harassment Complaints” (NYT, Dec 14, 2018):

Before he turned 40, Roland G. Fryer Jr. had earned tenure at Harvard, received a MacArthur “genius” grant and won the most prestigious award for young American economists. He stoked a national debate by concluding that police officers show no bias in the shootings of black men.

But his rapid ascent has taken a troubling turn as Harvard officials review a university investigator’s conclusion that Dr. Fryer fostered a work environment hostile to women, one filled with sexual talk and bullying.

The findings, reviewed by The New York Times, found that Dr. Fryer had engaged in “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” toward four women who worked in the Harvard-affiliated research lab he created. In one case, his “persistent and pervasive” conduct contributed to stress that resulted in the accuser’s taking disability leave, the investigator found.

I.e., things were so bad that someone had to be paid for not working.

Cash and sex go together in economics research…

Now 41, he is one of Harvard’s best-paid faculty members, earning more than $600,000, the university’s 2016 tax filing shows. He has brought at least $33.6 million in grants to the university, according to a résumé on his Harvard web page.

Dr. Fryer told a Harvard investigator that any sexual banter in his office was related to his research and “in the spirit of academic freedom.”

Seven months have gone by. Has the guy disappeared? The Harvard web site suggests he is still on the payroll. How is that possible? Nobel Prize winners have been disappeared for far less (e.g., Tim Hunt).

“Complainant Withdrew Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination Complaint Against Harvard Prof. Roland Fryer” (Harvard Crimson, April 23, 2019):

A Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination investigation into whether Economics Professor Roland G. Fryer, Jr. sexually harassed and retaliated against a former female employee concluded in February by agreement of the parties, according to documents obtained by The Crimson. … The MCAD closed its investigation after the complainant’s lawyer, Monica R. Shah, signed the withdrawal form on Feb. 4. On the form, Shah indicated that the complainant had reached a “satisfactory settlement” with Harvard, Fryer, and Allan.

I.e., cash was the magic solution for the professor in a discipline that says most problems can be fixed with cash…

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Why didn’t Jeffrey Epstein move?

My Facebook feed is lit up with posts regarding Jeffrey Epstein. Example:

My current guess: Trump’s tweet was his standard distraction from something awful by starting something even more awful. He may not even have meant to do it by being an obvious racist: just to whip up some boilerplate outrage that his base would love and that journalists would eat up. The question: distraction from what? My guess: Jeffrey Epstein.

One practical question: Why did Mr. Epstein spend any time in New York, Florida, or the U.S. after his 2005-2008 encounters with the criminal justice system?

Wikipedia shows that the age of consent in New York is 17 and in Florida is 18. What is illegal “sex with a child” in these states, however, might be legal (albeit sleazy) in adjacent states such as New Jersey (16) and Georgia (16).

Once he read the news about prominent men (e.g., Bill Cosby) prosecuted and/or convicted for decades-old offenses, why didn’t Epstein get in his Gulfstream and buy into citizenship in a European country that won’t extradite its citizens? France (age of consent: 15) or Germany (age of consent: 14; legal prostitution)?

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Transactional sex around Lake Malawi

As someone who shares a home with African cichlids, I clicked on a headline from NPR: “The Dark Secret Of Lake Malawi”. The story, however, turned out not to be about future aquarium pets:

“Sex for fish.”

That unlikely phrase is used in some lakefront communities in sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the world where men catch the fish and women sell the catch to local customers.

Or if the supply of fish is low because of overfishing, several women may vie for a fisherman’s catch — and transactional sex may be used as a bargaining point.

The writer does not seem to have researched the question of whether commercial sex is more common around this lake compared to other parts of the same countries.

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