Streeter: Writer’s criticism proves age is just a number, not a sign of maturity

CNN Headline News’ Asheligh Banfield came under fire for criticizing a woman who accused actor Aziz Ansari of date rape.

When my niece was about 13, her two favorite insults were “That’s old” and “Well, I’ve never heard of it.” We heard them mostly when she didn’t like whatever pre-2000-era song was playing on the car radio. It tickled us, because imagining that anything that’s escaped your seasoned and vast 13-year-old frame of reference is irrelevant is the height of hilarity. Girl, you can’t even drive or be out after dark without an adult. You’re funny.

While that attitude is hilarious when you’re 13, wishing your aunt would stop playing The Bangles in the car, it’s less cute when you’re a 22-year-old professional journalist who can’t come up with any better clapback at another journalist who disagrees with you than “Dude, you’re old.”

Because if you’re lucky, 22-year-olds, you’ll be old one day, too. And that’s a good thing.

I’m talking about Katie Way, a writer for a website called Babe.net, which I had never heard of before last week, a fact that doesn’t automatically make it irrelevant because I’m mature enough to know that I don’t know everything. Way wrote an explosive story about a sexual encounter between actor Aziz Ansari and an anonymous photographer called Grace, which has been characterized as everything from assault to a bad date. I’m not going to debate that point, because I wasn’t there, and if even the two people who were can’t decide on what happened, heck if I’m gonna try.

But CNN Headline News anchor Ashleigh Banfield had a lot to say about it, and after an impassioned on-air “open letter” in which she accused Way and “Grace” of carelessly belittling the #MeToo movement with a hap-hazard takedown. After Banfield’s clip went viral, Headline News reached out to Way, whose response was not only, as she wrote, “an unequivocal no,” but an attempt to highlight Banfield’s irrelevancy that just proves her own immaturity.

Way’s rebuttal does detail her “disgust” that Banfield never attempted to speak to her or “Grace” before blasting her on TV, and reiterates “Grace’s” bravery at speaking up and adding to the conversation. But too much of the email is a shockingly juvenile taking of umbrage with the fact that someone as old as Banfield, “someone I’m certain no one under the age of 45 has ever heard of,” would dare have an opinion. She attacks the older reporter as a “burgundy lipstick bad highlights second wave feminist has-been” and reiterated that “no one my age would ever watch your network.”

Oh, good burn, sweetie. Obviously if you wouldn’t watch it, it’s trash.

Aziz Ansari arrives at the 75th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif. The publication of an account by a woman identified only as “Grace” detailing her 2017 encounter with comedian Aziz Ansari intimated that Ansari deserved inclusion in the ranks of abusive perpetrators, yet many readers _ women and men _ concluded the encounter amounted to an all-too-common instance of bad sex during a date gone awry. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

I am hoping that if Way had a moment to think about how she was responding before hitting “Send,” that she would have realized how dumb and unprofessional she sounds. See, Katie, you have a right to defend your work, and to defend “Grace.” But 50 percent of that defense is that the person criticizing you is too old to matter. And that’s petty and unhelpful. In case someone hasn’t told you yet, Ashleigh Banfield has interviewed world leaders. She is on a national network. She has almost 80,000 Twitter followers, a mark of success that perhaps someone your age might appreciate.

She may be someone you’ve never heard of, but a lot of other people have. And the fact that you think that she’s nobody because you don’t know her is rich, since a lot of people never heard of you or Babe.net before this Ansari story, either. Of course you disagree with her take. So do that. Talk about what you think is a lack of ethics. Talk about her professionalism. Talk about how you think “Grace” has been disrespected. Talking about her highlights and her lipstick means you’ve run out of argument.

Here’s the thing — being 22 and having a public platform is great. Having that sort of energy and passion at any age is something to be proud of. But if you are lucky, Katie, and all the other Katies out there who throw out “old” as a pejorative, you will one day be 30. And 40. And, as Banfield is, 50. And you will have made mistakes, and gotten a few wrinkles, and stopped recognizing half the names on the MTV VMA Awards. And hopefully you will have become accomplished in whatever field you chose, and have gained some wisdom.

Aging, if you’re lucky enough to actually not die before your time, is not a sin. It’s not bad. It’s just the natural order of things. There are many foolish 45-year-olds, and many wise 22-year-olds. All age says is how many birthdays you’ve had. It doesn’t automatically define how smart you are, how cool you are, or your worth as a person. Your ability to take criticism and not lash out at people? That’s another matter.

Because you know who was 22 years old once? Ashleigh Banfield. And you know who’s not gonna be 22 years old next year? You. Youth is not forever. But immaturity can be if you won’t listen. Don’t let that be you.

Streeter: Please, don’t blame the women for what Louis C.K. did

Louis C.K. arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

The surprising admission by comedian Louis C.K. to allegations that he exposed himself to fellow female comedians and writers prompted the following post by Palm Beach Post Entertainment writer Leslie Streeter:

On Friday, comedian Louis C.K., the latest in a cavalcade of celebrities accused of sexual harassment and misconduct, confirmed the story of several writers he’d worked with and other comedians that he’d masturbated in front of them. And even though he’d always asked permission before doing so, he admits now that when someone works for you and their livelihood and possibly their future reputation depends on you, it’s not really a request. Twitter’s full of a lot of people who weren’t in those rooms, but are still full of opinions about how the female victims of his workplace grossness should have reacted.

And my response to them is to stop talking about things you don’t know about. I know about it. It happened to me.

I was an eager and naive 22-year-old taking the bus home from my first newspaper job, in Miami, a city I’d only lived in for a few months. I was Mary Tyler Moore. I was Rhoda. I was gonna make it after all. I was…sitting on the bus bench on a rainy day, under the enclosure, when a man maybe in his 20s sat next to me.

Leslie Streeter (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

It was immediately clear there was something wrong, that he was too close, too not casual. I was a nice girl, so even though my Baltimore-bred Spidey Sense told me to get up, he hadn’t really done anything, right? What if my moving made him feel bad? He was of a different race than me. Were my fears racist? I prayed the bus will come faster, and glances over at him. He was staring at me touching himself.

Oh my God!

I let out a yelp and stood up quickly, trying to figure out where another bus stop might be because there weren’t a lot more buses coming and I would be stuck there, pre-cellphone, an hour away from home. And it was raining. So I started to walk to the bench outside of the enclosure and he looked at me — I will never forget this — with this hangdog look inviting pity… Pity!… For him.

And he said, “You’re so pretty. Can’t I just look at you while I do this?” I didn’t say no. I wanted to. I wanted to scream it. But I didn’t want to say anything, I didn’t want to acknowledge him. But this sick bastard took that as permission. I didn’t want to make him mad. He might have been violent, because if he was bold enough to do that in daylight in public, who knows what else he’d do? And I needed the bus. And I was alone here on this stop in this not-nice neighborhood with a man touching himself in front of me.

I know that there are people who would say that this was just a crazy person, a garden-variety creep. That this was just a friendly-neighborhood perv, without the raincoat, and I wasn’t in any danger. But safety isn’t always about being held at knife-point. It’s about someone deciding that they want something from you and that your physical and mental and emotional safety do not matter. It was my fault for being there. For being someone this guy thought was pretty. It was not my fault!

NEW YORK, NY — An exterior view of The Paris Theatre on November 9, 2017 in New York City. The premiere for the movie was canceled after Louis C.K. was accused of sexual misconduct by five women was reported by the New York Times. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

The same goes for those brave women who came forward to tell this story about Louis C.K., a beloved comedian who admits that even though he later called some of them to apologize years later, he knows that his favorable reputation in the business would inoculate him from repercussions. These aren’t even new accusations – they’ve been floating around for years and even I, an entertainment reporter in Florida, had heard them. People are now believing these stories because there are so many of them now, like an ugly avalanche. At least one of these women left comedy because of what was done to her. And all she, and others, did was come to work, and dare to be in the same space as someone who didn’t care about their physical, mental and emotional safety.

Who, for all of his money and influence, turns out to be just another pervert at the bus stop.

Munoz: ‘Tweens’ shouldn’t look at Kendall, Kylie as perfect role models

The latest controversy involving Kendall (left) and Kylie (right) Jenner raises questions about them as role models.

Valeria Munoz

Palm Beach Post Opinion Intern

The Kardashians just can’t seem to catch a break this year.

First Kendall Jenner’s “groundbreaking” Pepsi commercial dissed members of the Black Lives Matter movement; and don’t even get me started on Rob Kardashian’s restraining order ordeal with estranged girlfriend Blac Chyna. Now, Kendall and Kylie are facing a backlash in regard to their newest graphic t-shirts featuring musical icons.

You may think “it’s just clothes, how could they go wrong?” Well trust me, the sisters went very, very, wrong.

The t-shirts feature images of rappers Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., as well as rockers Ozzy Osbourne and the Doors — just to name a few. But the musicians’ original album cover art are overshadowed by Kendall and Kylie’s initials, faces and even Kylie’s pool selfie. Priced at $125, the limited edition shirts were removed from their store’s website — but not before two people purchased a Tupac shirt.

Graphic tees paying homage to bands are all the rage from Target to Brandy Melville, but the Jenner sisters completely missed the point. Rather than make the musicians the center of the design, using the legendary logos as a background completely minimized the importance of those symbols.

The sisters’ ignorance to music history was disrespectful to the musicians and their families. Many relatives have spoken out. The Doors’ former lawyer has filed a cease-and-desist lawsuit, and Michael Miller, a photographer for Tupac, is also attempting to sue the duo. The Kendall and Kylie brand has since issued a statement saying “the allegations are completely false and the lawsuit is baseless.”

Profiting off of musicians’ images doesn’t make the duo “edgy,” “trendy,” or “vintage.” It exposes just how oblivious they are to rap and rock culture. They seem to be just as clueless as a teen who buys a band shirt, yet can’t name one song by that band.

Believe it or not, kids — specifically “tweens” (8-12 years) — are growing up with Kendall and Kylie as role models. Whether they are good role models is certainly up for debate, but they are constantly in the public eye. And if their millions of followers on Instagram and Twitter is any indication, the sisters have quite an influence over their young fans; the same fans who watch their show, and buy their lipstick.

Having said that their designs were “randomly selected and not well thought out,” Kendall and Kylie might want to spend more time on their designs and consider the repercussions of their actions and less time on profiting off of others’ legacies.

Munoz, a 2017 graduate of Boca Raton High School, is an intern in the Palm Beach Post Opinion Department.

Christie: PBC cities risk return of ‘Corruption County’ by shorting IG’s office

Palm Beach County Inspector General John A. Carey speaks with county commissioners before the start of a meeting at the Governmental Center in West Palm Beach. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach County’s Office of the Inspector General has to feel like the Rodney Dangerfield of local government.

They don’t get “no respect, no respect at all.”

Latest case in point: Despite documented success at ferreting out, and drawing attention to questionable government actions, county commissioners last month decided not to grant Inspector General John Carey’s budget request for $500,000 for additional staffers — part of a 10-person boost Carey wants over the next three years.

RELATED: Cities balk at idea of helping PB County pay for inspector general

This wasn’t some arbitrary request, mind you. The IG’s office, according to Carey, has questioned $24.7 million in costs, identified $21.9 million in potential cost savings and referred 119 cases to law enforcement, the county or Florida Commission on Ethics.

Not bad for a much-maligned agency that’s been under-funded, under-staffed and under-appreciated by many of the local elected officials it works for.

Remember that 15 of our 39 municipalities sued to keep from paying their share for running the IG’s office.

Remember also, that in response to a 2009 grand jury report citing repeated incidences by former members of the county and West Palm Beach city commissions — earning us the nickname “Corruption County” — 72 percent of voters in 2010 had had enough. They approved expanding the IG’s office to cover all then-38 municipalities, and to be funded by them.

By they way, that was a majority of voters in each and every municipality.

The will of the voters aside, however, 40 percent of the county’s cities didn’t like the idea of paying for someone to look over their shoulders. They should decide how their city’s money is spent; a rather compelling argument when budgets are tight.

That made for a protracted legal battle, which the cities eventually won in a December ruling from the 4th District Court of Appeal. The court determined that, “Notwithstanding the constitutional principle that ‘(a)ll political power is inherent in the people,’ voters may not waive a municipality’s sovereign immunity through a local referendum.”
No surprise that leaves the IG’s office in a rather tough spot. You see, it must by law provide oversight and conduct investigations not only in the county but in cities that don’t pay for its work.
Palm Beach Count Ethics Commissioner Sarah L. Shullman

County Ethics Commissioner Sarah L. Shullman told the Post’s Wayne Washington that the cities are being shortsighted in refusing to fund the office. She said that its basically contract review work, and even its fraud investigations can potentially save a city far more money than it would cost to contribute to the office’s budget.

Carey, meanwhile, is trying to stay above the fray and not bite the potential hands that might feed him.
He just wants the money for the additional staffing. “I’m trying to stay out of the argument between the cities and the county,” he said, but added that the office’s limited staffing “hurts our ability to serve the citizens of Palm Beach County, who voted overwhelmingly for our oversight. At the end of the day, I just hope we find a way to adequately fund the Office of the Inspector General.”
Yeah, good luck with that.
Carey did try to take his case to the public — albeit in an email to local media outlets the day before commissioners decided to accept County Administrator Verdenia Baker’s budget recommendation to hold off on the requested $500,000.
In a short, soft-spoken cover letter, he chided “friends and IG supporters” to:

  Please see the attached IG Update on our accomplishments to date and where we stand as a result of the end of the lawsuit over funding of your Palm Beach County Office of Inspector General.

  June marks my third year as your Inspector General.  Over the past three years, I have spoken to hundreds of business and community groups about what your Office of Inspector General is doing to guard taxpayer dollars and promote integrity, transparency and accountability in government.  If you have a group you would like me to speak to, please let me know.  I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to meet and speak with those I serve.

Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker said she seriously considered Carey’s request but decided that other staffing needs were more pressing. She also did not include funding for all of Sheriff Ric Bradshaw’s request for new deputies. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Commissioners and Baker, who rightfully has her eye on a likely $25 million property tax revenue shortfall from a potential expansion of the homestead exemption next year, were moved, but not enough.
While some commissioners said they support the IG’s work, their hopes lie in the cities’ “voluntary” largesse.
“I think our recourse here is as clear as day,” Commissioner Hal Valeche said. “We need to go after the cities. They are getting a service and not paying for it, and that is not right. I don’t know how we apply leverage. We can shame the cities, which is my preferred course. You just don’t get something for nothing in this world.”
I’m not sure that the municipalities get that. They seem to be under the impression that they don’t need a corruption watchdog because we’re no longer “Corruption County” — a universally despised moniker.
But what if the reason we’re no longer “Corruption County” is precisely because we have a corruption watchdog?
Is it so hard to believe that government officials will behave badly when they are convinced no one is watching? Or that no one cares enough to do anything?
As much as we’d like to move past it, we need to remember that universally despised moniker was earned. A majority of taxpayers in every municipality agreed, and voted to do something about it.
A state appellate court shot them down. But that doesn’t erase their concern or wishes.
Our municipal government officials can either go on kidding themselves — and their residents — that “Corruption County” can’t happen again, or they can pony up the money to help pay for the IG’s work to make sure it doesn’t.

What do you think? …

Goodman: Answer Comey’s firing with an independent probe into alleged Trump-Russia ties

In this Wednesday, May 3, 2017, photo, then-FBI Director James Comey pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. President Donald Trump abruptly fired Comey on May 9, ousting the nation’s top law enforcement official in the midst of an investigation into whether Trump’s campaign had ties to Russia’s election meddling.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

UPDATE 12:34 p.m.

The New York Times and others are reporting that just days ago Comey asked Justice Department officials for a significant increase in money and personnel to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. The Times attributes its information to three congressional sources briefed on the request.

The timing of Mr. Comey’s request is not clear-cut evidence that his firing was related to the Russia investigation. But it is certain to fuel bipartisan criticism that President Trump appeared to be meddling in an investigation that had the potential to damage his presidency.

The F.B.I. declined to comment. But Sarah Isgur Flores, the Justice Department spokeswoman, said “the idea that he asked for more funding” for the Russia investigation was “totally false.” She did not elaborate. (New York Times)

****

President Donald J. Trump’s surprise firing of FBI Director James Comey instantly brings back the sick-to-the-stomach feeling of former President Richard Nixon’s infamous Saturday Night Massacre.

Once again, a president under investigation for suspected illegalities in his election has fired the man leading the investigation against him.

Once again, an existential question hovers over Washington and the nation at-large: Can the president be above the law? And if not, how is he to be held to account?

Trump’s stated reasons for firing Comey, as expressed in a memo prepared by Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — that Comey was unfair to Hillary Clinton by discussing her mishandling of emails in a press conference, though he declined to recommend her prosecution — makes no sense. If that were the reason, why now, 100-plus days into Trump’s presidency? And why should Trump, who led avid crowds in choruses of “Lock her up!” fire anyone for any lack of kindness to Hillary Clinton?

On the other hand, Trump gave Comey the boot on Tuesday afternoon just hours after CNN learned that federal prosecutors had issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of  former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn as part of the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Comey publicly confirmed the existence of that probe at a Senate hearing last week, disclosing that the investigation was being led jointly by the Alexandria U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

The subpoenas represent the first sign of a significant escalation of activity in the FBI’s broader investigation begun last July into possible ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia.
The subpoenas issued in recent weeks by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, Virginia, were received by associates who worked with Flynn on contracts after he was forced out as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, according to the people familiar with the investigation. (CNN.com)

The worry now, by some Republicans in Congress as well as Democrats, is whether a Justice Department headed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who concurred in Comey’s firing despite saying he would recuse himself from the both the Russia meddling and Clinton email matters, can be trusted to continue this investigation.

The investigation is crucial not for the purpose of damaging the president for partisan purposes, but to understand the depth of a foreign adversary’s interference in the exercise of American democracy.

It is imperative now that Congress regain its bearing as a co-equal branch of government and authorize or organize an independent investigation of Russia’s meddling in the election, and the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with those efforts.

Anyone out there disagree? Take our poll …