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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Women love Criminals

One surprise from The Last Stone, by Mark Bowden, is how successful low-income criminals are at meeting women and passing on their genetic personality characteristics:

At that point all they knew about Lloyd Lee Welch came from files. His criminal record sketched a rough time line before and after he had walked into Wheaton Plaza in 1975 with his bogus story—or so it had been considered then; now the authorities were less certain. Lloyd’s record traced a heroic trail of malfeasance. In Maryland: larceny (1977), burglary (1981), assault and battery (1982). In Florida: burglary in Orlando (1977), burglary in Miami (1980). In Iowa: robbery in Sioux City (1987). Then he’d moved to South Carolina: public drunkenness and then grand larceny in Myrtle Beach (1988), burglary in Horry County (1989), sexual assault on a ten-year-old girl in Lockhart (1992), drunk driving in Clover (1992). Then on to Virginia: sexual assault on a minor in Manassas (1996), simple assault in Manassas (1997). He’d finally landed hard in Delaware: sexual assault of a ten-year-old girl in New Castle (1997). After that the list ended. This was typical. Waning hormones or better judgment often overtook even the slowest learners by their mid-thirties, after which they avoided trouble. Either that or they got killed or locked up. In Welch’s case it was the latter. He was deep into a thirty-three-year sentence for the Delaware charge, housed at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna.

He started reproducing as a teenager, a set of children whose expenses would ultimately be met by taxpayers:

His most significant relationship had been with a woman named Helen Craver, whom he had met when he was just sixteen and she was twenty, a chubby woman who shared his appetite for drugs and drifting. They had stuck together through the 1970s, traveling and using drugs and making babies. Helen lost one child and gave birth to three during those years. After he was sentenced to a second stretch in prison in 1981, they both relinquished parental rights, and Helen went her own way. Lloyd had seen neither her nor his children since. “They’re all adults now,” Lloyd said. “I should have grandchildren by now. You would think. I mean my oldest daughter’s thirty-four years old. But do you have any idea where they’re at?” Dave shook his head. “No? And if they married, their names?” Again, Dave shook his head. “I would love to establish a relationship with them, let them know that I did love them and everything, but I thought it was in their best interest to put them in foster homes and get adopted out. Margaret at the time was six, and Amy was just turning five, and Tanya was a little baby.”

There was no shortage of would-be successors to Helen:

When released from the prison stretch that split him from Helen and their children, Lloyd went back to wandering, drugs, drinking, and petty crimes. He was in and out of jail. In 1985, during one of his periods of freedom, he got married, in South Carolina—he was then using the name Mike. He started his own landscaping business in Myrtle Beach in 1989, by then living with a different woman from the one he had married. Then came his three child-molestation arrests, the last of which had earned him his current lengthy term.

Do you know that you had a child that died, a female child? Does that ring a bell? Charlene? You knew she was pregnant when you left her and went to Baltimore with some fifteen-year-old chick. You knew she was pregnant.”

“I didn’t know she was pregnant! How could I have known she was pregnant?” “I mean, you have kids all over the place.” “I do?” “Yeah. I probably know more of your kids than you do at this point.” “Wow! How many I got?” “A lot, a lot.” “Yeah?” Lloyd looked proud. “Do you remember Charlene? Cici? She was very visibly pregnant when you left her. She was twenty. You told her she was too old and you were looking for somebody younger.”

Maybe he was super charming and treated women like queens?

Every single female I talked to said you beat the shit out of her. And every dude I met told me that you like to beat up girls. Why would everybody lie?”

He had a lot of money and women were availing themselves of the unlimited child support profits that Maryland family law provides?

He had worked for a traveling carnival, which explained the wide-ranging geography of his criminal past.

Humans are supposed to be animals in which sexual selection operates. Historically, polygamy has been the norm and fewer than 50 percent of men have descendants. Biologists would say that women have selected the best quality mates.

Why did so many women choose to mate and reproduce with this criminal? What was it about him that made them think he was fitter than average? One would think that being imprisoned is the very definition of poor genetic fit to current societal conditions, yet criminals apparently don’t have any trouble reproducing.

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Does a Pride flag mean EVERYONE is welcome?

A Facebook friend shared the following post from a Conservative Rabbi:

(i.e., a prime spot for a Black Lives Matter sign (in a nearly-all-white town, of course, with restrictive zoning to keep it that way) was taken up with a different victim group’s banner)

He added “We stand for radical hospitality. EVERYONE is welcome!”

Of course, I had to ask “Would someone who advocated for strict adherence to Leviticus 18 and 20 be welcome?” (see Wikipedia for “Orthodox Judaism generally prohibits homosexual conduct”)

There was a bit of back and forth, leading me to suggest an update: “everyone who agrees with us is welcome”

A righteous congregation member replied “Do you mean to suggest that the hypothetical conservative people you reference would be unable to respect that others have different moral perspectives from them, and would make a scene harassing others, causing them to be asked to leave?”

I refined the question: Okay, so the hypothetical person comes to the “EVERYONE is welcome” temple wearing a T-shirt reading “Follow Leviticus 18/20” on the front. On the back is “Outlaw abortion after a heartbeat can be heard”. On the head of this person is a red MAGA hat. The person is carrying (not on Shabbat, I hope!) Tefillin in a Trump Hotel laundry bag in one hand and a Reelect Trump 2020 tote bag in the other hand. Will this person be just as welcome as a person wearing a rainbow T-shirt?

A sincere congregation member: I imagine such a shirt might prompt conversation, and as long as all parties engaged in conversation in good faith, I have trouble believing Mr. T-Shirt Man (as I’m now thinking of him/you) would be asked to leave.

I asked how this would be different from a Catholic Church putting out a “Stop abortions now” (an issue on which Americans disagree) and saying “EVERYONE is welcome,”

The righteous response: a key difference is that the Catholic Church promotes a moral code that is anti-abortion, and presumably could even excommunicate members who have abortions. Therefore, such signage would be hypocritical. It seems that perhaps you are perceiving there are “two sides” that are mirrors of one another, but there are crucial differences between a Catholic or Evangelical church that says “abortion is immoral” and are working to criminalize abortion—but still say “all are welcome” — and a Jewish Temple or, say, a UU church that sees abortion as a medical procedure between a women and her doctor (but not going around and foisting the procedure on others) and welcomes all comers. The former groups are trying to control / legislate others’ behavior, but the latter groups are not.

I pointed out that the LGBTQ banner was sometimes unfurled in order to control and coerce others, e.g., preventing Chick-fil-A from opening restaurants, forcing the Colorado baker to make a same-sex wedding cake, or boycotting Israel (maybe they’d rather visit one of the anti-Israel countries in which homosexual acts are punishable by death?).

Me: Circling back to the original post, would your temple be equally welcoming to the Colorado baker who was the subject of the Supreme Court case as you would be to someone wearing a Provincetown Pride T-shirt? If not, it is inaccurate to say that EVERYONE is welcome!

Congregation Member 1: exerting pressure on corporations to change their practices is not the same as legislating the elimination of human rights for certain groups of people. Apples and oranges.

Congregation Member 2: you seem to say above that a flag representing “[Jewish] gays are welcome,” is a point of view?

Readers: What do you think? Does hanging a pride flag signal adherence to a political point of view and therefore tend to exclude people who don’t agree with that point of view (e.g., Orthodox Jews, observant Muslims, Catholics, etc.)? Or is it legitimately characterized as an “EVERYONE is welcome” sign?

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New York Times is the new Penthouse Forum for AARP Members?

A tale of an encounter in a department store dressing room with a rich famous guy in which both man and woman had to keep silent for fear that the dozens of nearby department store workers, including security personnel, would hear. For folks who were born well before the Internet porn revolution, that would be the summary of a letter to Playboy or Penthouse Forum (and ultimately the subject of scholarly analysis).

What’s different this time? The New York Times is competing with Playboy and Penthouse and the female in the story is 76 years old (but might have been as young as 52 at the time, still two years over the age of eligibility of membership in AARP).

What are we to make of the media interest in this tale?

Related:

Update: This is the top story in New Yorker magazine’s daily email:

The dressing room encounter turns out to be related to the undocumented:

I imagined that undocumented families would be openly and cruelly persecuted in America, and that there would be plans of mass raids and internment, and that as this was happening I would not be rioting in the street as I ought to but depressively checking things off my Google Calendar to-do list and probably writing a blog post about a meme. What I didn’t imagine, though—and what actually occurred last week—is that a respected and well-known writer would accuse the President of raping her, and that I would be so sad and numb, after years of writing about Trump’s many accusers, after watching Brett Kavanaugh get confirmed to the Supreme Court in the face of credible sexual-assault allegations, that I would not even have the courage to read the story for days.

… public figure accusing the President of rape is news. Even though Carroll is at least the twenty-second woman to accuse Trump of sexual misconduct, she is only the second to accuse him of rape. (The first was Ivana Trump, who later downplayed her story.)

(not mentioned is that Ivana Trump was an alimony and child support plaintiff at the time and a failure to attempt to use the domestic violence parallel track in a U.S. family court is typically a sign of poor legal advice; Plaintiff Ivana “downplayed” the story once she got the cash she was seeking)

If the President had ever convincingly espoused ideas of respect for people who are not like him, or of equal rights for women, it’s possible that he would be held accountable for his actions. Instead, he promised mass campaigns of cruelty against undocumented immigrants, and he is delivering. He said that he grabbed women by the pussy, and many women—twenty-two, so far—explained that, yes, he did that, or something like it, to them. Carroll’s essay—exceptional, devastating, decades in the making—has made me consider how hard it is to understand right away that you’ve been exhausted into submission, especially when submission and endurance feel inextricable.

The writer seems very concerned about the undocumented, but has she offered any concrete assistance to them? A room in her Manhattan apartment?

[On Facebook today, I saw a non-Jew holding a placard reading “End Family Separation. End Detention Camps. The Jewish Community Says This is a Moral Emergency.” I had to restrain myself from responding with “But not such a serious emergency that any of the members of the Yale Jewish Community would offer to shelter a migrant in their own houses?”]

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Sultan of Brunei owns Piper Aircraft

“Piper’s financial ties to anti-gay Brunei stir up controversy, with Harris caught in crossfire” (Florida Today):

Vero Beach-based Piper Aircraft Inc. has become embroiled in an international controversy, as a result of its ownership by the government of Brunei, which has just implemented a harsh new law that punishes sex between men and adultery with death by stoning.

Jackie Carlon, senior director of marketing and communications for Piper, said that, while “the shareholder of Piper Aircraft is the ministry of finance of Kingdom of Brunei,” and “we’re very, very aware of” the policy in Brunei, “I can’t control what they do in their country.”

Carlon said Brunei currently doesn’t profit from Piper’s business, but rather reinvests the profits back into the company.

I.e., so far this has been a money-sink for the Sultan. Surprise, surprise! (Who told him that general aviation would be a good investment? That Piper had already gone bankrupt twice in its history so plainly a third bankruptcy was impossible?)

Cirrus, the market leader in family-sized aircraft, was formerly owned by the First Islamic Investment Bank, ultimately renamed Arcapita, “the premier source for Shari’ah-compliant alternative investments” and “a global leader in Islamically acceptable alternative investments.” It is unclear if Arcapita maintained traditional Islamic views regarding sexual activities. Cirrus today is owned by the Chinese government, basically, and China does not comply with U.S. standards regarding, for example, same-sex marriage (Wikipedia).

Maybe the answer is to pay up for an Embraer Phenom 300? The company is Brazilian, part-owned by the Brazilian government, and same-sex marriage is available in Brazil (Wikipedia). If you’re passionate about flying and matters LGBTQIA, but approximately $10 million short of the $10 million necessary for a Phenom 300, Cessna is owned by Textron, which earned a perfect score in the 2019 Corporate Equality Index (“Rating Workplaces on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Equality”). New and used Cessnas are available to suit nearly every budget.

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