The Morning Jolt


How’s Your ‘Day of Rage’ Going So Far?

Today is the Palestinians’ “Day of Rage” over the United States recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, marked by angry mobs, violence, and chants of “We don’t need empty words, we need stones and Kalashnikovs.” The other name for days they do this is “Friday.”

Actually, as of this writing, today is looking more like a “Day of Predictable Usual Anger and Protests.”

By midday Friday there had been no reports of deaths in two days of demonstrations in the Palestinian territories. Thirty-one Palestinians were wounded on Thursday.

Clashes began in some spots of the West Bank after Friday prayers, though the unrest appeared less intense than the previous day. In Hebron and Bethlehem dozens of Palestinians threw stones at Israeli soldiers who fired back with tear gas.

In Gaza, calls for worshippers to protest sounded over mosque loudspeakers and dozens of youths burnt tires on the main streets of the enclave, controlled by the Islamist Hamas group, and hundreds rallied toward the border with Israel.

Look, pal, all you’re doing is leaving a terrible burnt rubber smell in your own neighborhood. (Somebody out there probably could have used those tires.) Israel doesn’t care. The current U.S. administration doesn’t care. Your anger isn’t really changing anything. 

Do you know who is going to get hurt by this violence? All the businesses in a little town of Bethlehem.

IDF General Yoav Mordechai the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories issued a statement on Facebook calling on the Palestinian public to lower tensions in the West Bank.

“Extremists are trying to incite the public by spreading lies that this is a religious war. In the end violence will only hurt the Palestinian people,” he wrote. “I beseech you. do not let the extremists ruin the Christmas season, by scaring off the tourists, without whom a period of positive blossoming, will go down the drain.”

This is a choice on the part of the Palestinians, one of many bad ones they’ve made, time after time. Back in the 1990s, they had President Bill Clinton desperate to reach a deal, and Yassir Arafat walked away from the table and the best offer his people were probably ever going to get. Barack Obama was about as tough on the Israelis as any American president is ever going to be, and the Palestinians still didn’t show any real effort to reach a deal. They need to learn, the hard way, that good opportunities don’t keep coming back over and over again.

Congress’s First In-Vitro Fertilization Sex Scandal

Picture the scene: a busy, overworked office of the House Ethics Committee.

Staffer One: Urgh. Well, that completes another case. What a weirdo. Who’s next?

Staffer Two: Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona.

Staffer One: And what did he do? Allegedly?

Staffer Two: He asked two female employees to bear his child as a surrogate.

Staffer One: (blinks) Wait, what? Run that by me again.

Staffer Two: It says on the complaint that he asked two female employees to bear his child as a surrogate.

Staffer One: Two? What, did he want twins or something?

Staffer Two: (reading) The congressman says he never “physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff.”

Staffer One: No, he just wanted his genetic material to be placed within the wombs of his staffers and carried to term. How, exactly, do you bring up a request like that? ‘Hey, I need you to carry something for me . . . for about nine months?’

Staffer Two: The staffers say the request made them uncomfortable.

Staffer One: I’d imagine so!

Staffer Two: It’s probably worth noting that there’s no sign of any prurient interest.

Staffer One: No, it’s just . . . weird. I mean, really weird, man! Of course it’s inappropriate for the workplace! How would you feel turning down your boss for a deeply personal request like that? Every time he made a decision after that, you would wonder if he was punishing you for turning him down, or if your refusal was playing a factor in his decision.

Staffer Two: Yeah, but let’s keep in mind, one of the toughest difficulties a couple can go through is infertility issues. People enduring that can find the sight of any child or any pregnancy upsetting, because it feels like they’re being denied something they want so badly, something that everyone else seems to get to have, even accidentally or at an inconvenient time. High school sex-ed classes make it sound like you can get a girl pregnant by looking at her for too long; it’s maddening for couples to find they’re having difficulty getting pregnant after all that time of trying to avoid pregnancy. The yearning for a child, and risk of not having one, can throw anybody for a loop. I once read a book where a guy described going through a difficult pregnancy with his wife and crying at the sight of kids in car repair commercials. My point is that Franks . . . may not have been at his peak emotional and psychological health when he made these requests.

Staffer One: Those are very good points. But you can’t ask your staffers to do something like this!

Staffer Two: No, of course not. As their boss, Franks had a responsibility to make sure these women never felt like they were obligated to do something inappropriate or excessively personal, and procreation certainly seems to be on that list. But Franks probably shouldn’t be lumped in with John Conyers and all the other creeps in the pile of paperwork in front of us.

Staffer One: In the aspect of seeing others as objects for his sexual pleasure, correct. But in some ways, this case is the clarifier of the current trends because of that difference. The key problem running through so many workplaces, so many prestigious offices, and so many halls of power is not an inherent “brutality of the male libido,” as that New York Times op-ed put it. The problem is people in authority not understanding or not caring about boundaries, not seeing those under them or around them as human beings deserving of respect, and losing any reticence or hesitation about abusing their power over them. Upset or not, it’s hard to believe Franks thought very long or hard about how his staffers would feel upon getting this request, or the awkward and difficult position he was putting them in by making it. The House Ethics Committee will have to–

Staffer Two: (checks phone) Wait, never mind, says here he’s resigning. Well, that saves us a lot of time and paperwork.

Staffer One: Great. With Franken going, let’s call our counterparts in the Senate and ask them if they want to grab a drink. The busy days aren’t likely to end anytime soon.

Is Senator Al Franken Really Leaving?

Of course, is Senator Al Franken really going to resign?

More than a few sharp political minds noticed that Franken did not resign immediately, but declared, “in the coming weeks I will be resigning as member of the United States Senate.” He also jabbed, “there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of the sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party.”

How likely is it that if Roy Moore wins the Alabama Senate race, Franken will pull a Larry Craig, rescind his resignation, and pledge to serve out his term or even run for reelection? Franken didn’t apologize for any actions, and declared, “Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember very differently.” What if Wednesday he declares his resignation is contingent on Roy Moore’s expulsion, or Donald Trump’s resignation?

What percentage of Minnesota Democrats would back the statement, “As long as a pig like Trump as in office, Al Franken’s got nothing to apologize for”? I’ll bet it would be enough to survive a primary.

Over in The New Yorker, Masha Gessen makes the unexpected argument (at least in that venue) that #MeToo is turning into “the sex police.”

The case of Franken makes it all that much more clear that this conversation is, in fact, about sex, not about power, violence, or illegal acts. The accusations against him, which involve groping and forcible kissing, arguably fall into the emergent, undefined, and most likely undefinable category of “sexual misconduct.” Put more simply, Franken stands accused of acting repeatedly like a jerk, and he denies that he acted this way. The entire sequence of events, from the initial accusations to Franken’s resignation, is based on the premise that Americans, as a society, or at least half of a society, should be policing non-criminal behavior related to sex.

Interesting word there, “policing.” Because so far, none of the big names that have resigned in the face of any accusations have been arrested, even though the behavior described in at least a few of them appears to meet the criteria for sexual assault. (I’ve heard through the grapevine that at least one large urban police force has an “if seen, stop and bring in for questioning” order on Harvey Weinstein.)

Let’s choose a different word. Should Americans be . . . rebuking non-criminal behavior related to sex? The Mikado sang, “let the punishment fit the crime” and there’s a big gray area between perfectly okay behavior and sex crimes. Society needs minor, non-criminal penalties for minor, non-criminal inappropriate acts.

(By the way, that bag of sex toys Lauer apparently had in his office? His lame-sounding excuse turned out to be true; he really had been given them as a gift by a sex therapist who appeared on the Today show. Go figure!)

ADDENDA: Happy holiday shopping season! Some distinctly pleasing news in the latest jobs report:

Employers added 228,000 jobs in November, while the unemployment rate remained at a 17-year low of 4.1%, the government reported Friday.

The report also showed that on average weekly paychecks increased by 3.1% over the last 12-months, the first time that reading has topped 3% in nearly seven years. But much of that gain came from Americans working longer hours, as the average hourly pay did not increase by quite as much.

Those working part-time because they couldn’t find a full-time job decreased, another bit of good news for job seekers.

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