Weekend Update 7/13/2019: Powerful men sometimes face consequences, but what happened at New Republic?
First: Trump Labor chief Alex Acosta resigns due to Jeffrey Epstein case. I wish I’d posted on line on Thursday what I said to my husband when I saw a news stories in which Trump was reported to have said that there was “zero chance” he would fire Acosta over these allegations. Because the moment I read that I thought, “he’s going to be out by the end of the week!” In case you don’t know what this is about, a week ago Trump pal Jeffrey Epstein arrested for sex trafficking dozens of minors and Fund manager Jeffrey Epstein was charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy, accused by US prosecutors of paying girls as young as 14 for sex and using them to recruit others from 2002 to 2005. And not just trafficking: Wealthy financier charged with molesting dozens of girls under the age of 18.
“Prosecutors said the evidence against Epstein included a “vast trove” of hundreds or even thousands of lewd photographs of young women or girls, discovered in a weekend search of his New York City mansion. Authorities also found papers and phone records corroborating the alleged crimes, and a massage room still set up the way accusers said it appeared, prosecutors said.”
How does this involve Trump’s Labor Secretary? Well, 12 years ago Acosta was a U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and mega-rich Epstein was under investigation for very similar charges involving molesting 36 young girls. Acosta stepped in a negotiated a plea deal where Epstein plead guilty to two minor prostitution charges, and would be required to register as a sex offender. Immunity from prosecution was granted on all of the other charges for Epstein, four named co-conspirators, and “unnamed potential co-conspirators.” People have been criticising that deal for years, particularly as it was pointed out that around the same time, Acosta prosecuted much less high-profile defendants on similar charges and got much more serious prison time for them.
Acosta had a press conference earlier this week in which he argued that the case hadn’t been strong enough to win, and besides, state authorities were really to blame. Those officials had something to say: ‘Abhorrent’ and ‘Completely Wrong’: Former Florida Officials Push Back Against Acosta’s Account of Epstein Case.
Some conservative sites are arguing that the new case isn’t prosecutable because of the deal. There are a few problems with that. The original deal only covered the 36 victims mentioned in the deal, for one, and More than 12 new Jeffrey Epstein accusers come forward. So none of these cases would be covered by the prosecutorial immunity. Also, one of the conditions of the deal was not just the Epstein would register as a sex offender, but that as a sex offender he would report his movement to authorities: NYPD let convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein skip judge-ordered check-ins (when you’re rich, you can get away with anything). Which doesn’t automatically mean the deal is voided, but a judge can set aside such a deal on those grounds.
Also, the original plea agreement was approved by a judge (as all have to be), and at that hearing it is traditional that victims of the alleged crimes are given a chance to address the court concerning the deal. At the time, only a few of the victims did so, and Acosta’s office told the court that all of the other victims declined to comment. Several of those victims insist that they were not consulted and not given an opportunity to speak, and a Florida judge ruled earlier this year that the non-prosecution agreement violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act because at least some witnesses were never consulted or informed that it had happened. The federal court where Epstein is currently being tried doesn’t have to abide by the state court’s ruling, but it can take it into account.
So, Acosta resigned yesterday. Good riddance. Though I don’t think that simply resigning and then retiring to a cushy consulting job in the vast alt-right media-and-consulting ecosystem is adequate punishment: How Alex Acosta Got Away With It for So Long – The only way the labor secretary could give Jeffrey Epstein that 2008 plea deal is by ignoring victims.
Every now and then, someone likes to accuse me of only going after bad behavior on one end of the political spectrum. Yesterday evening was an example of the other direction: The New Republic removes op-ed attack on Buttigieg; admits it was ‘inappropriate and invasive’. Yesterday, the New Republic, which is generally considered to be a left-leaning publication, published a op-ed by an out gay writer entitled, “My Mayor Pete Problem.” I saw lots of people commenting on it throughout the day, but didn’t get a chance to go read it until the evening.
It was special.
It literally read (and I said so on line before it was pulled) like a drunken rant you would hear in a gay bar in which someone was critiquing a gay politician and blending opinions about the politician’s personal life choice, speculation about his habits in bed, along with poorly sourced comments on the politicians actual policy positions. Since the essay has been taken down (and a rather lame editorial apology posted), you can’t go read it for yourself. But don’t take my word for it:
In the hard-to-believe essay, Peck repeatedly referred to the also openly gay Buttigieg as “Mary Pete.” …Among the many gratuitous personal insults to the mayor, Peck also compares him to a 15-year-old boy who’s wondering if he should sleep with a 50-year-old man, and speculates about Buttigieg’s sexual preferences in bed — in terms that are not appropriate to repeat in this publication.
—The New York Daily News
Beside the fact that this vulgar hit piece was represented as political commentary (and then after the firestorm of criticism, the editors pivoted to claiming it was satire), the other crime it committed is that it forced me to agree with the arch-conservative wingnuts at the Washington Examiner: Nasty, horribly written New Republic op-ed attacks Mayor Pete as the gay Uncle Tom (Note, this is a donotlink.it link).
When the same publication that frequently insists that IQ is hereditary which therefore justifies some of their racist editorials recognizes that something you’ve published is homophobic, you have really screwed up!
Someone at the New Republic needs to get fired over this.
And here are a collection of awful headlines that I want to clear out and not even think about for next Friday:
Feds Bust Christian Missionary For Molesting Orphans. Arrested. Please, oh please don’t let anyone like Acosta near this case!
Finally, while I don’t feel right trying to end this on a positive note, I will end it with just a bit of schadenfreude:
Anti-Gay Former GOP Rep. William Dannemeyer Dies At 89, Called For Firing And Quarantining People With HIV. When he was still in congress he claimed that queer men infected with HIV “emitted spores” that could infect pregnant women—and that was hardly the craziest thing he ever said. Anyway, here’s hoping his soul is mounted on a nice rotisserie in hell.
So I was a little surprised when, several months before the anniversary, some relatives from out there contacted me to invite me to a 60th Anniversary party, just before Christmas. I said that I would have to look into travel logistics, but it would be nice to see the old hometown again. The relative in question hoped that I would be able to stay through Christmas and so forth. I made the comment that I wasn’t sure how much time off Michael would be able to take, since he got a lot less paid vacation at his place of work than I did.
I could almost feel the temperature drop on the line. “Oh, no. You can’t bring your friend. You understand, that would really upset everyone.”
“You expect my husband to stay back in a hotel while I’m at the party?”
”No. We expect you to be sensible and leave your friend back in Seattle.”
They then explained (as if I needed to be reminded) that Grandma and Grandpa were elderly and weren’t as open-minded as this relative currently talking to me. They explained how many of the equally elderly siblings of both Grandma and Grandpa were planning to attend. “You can’t expect people their age to put up with… um, well, you know.”
I said that, as a matter of fact, I could expect that. And if my husband wasn’t welcome, than neither was I.
That wasn’t the end of it. Several other relatives called, urging me to come. Reminding me that this might be the last time I could see them, and surely I wouldn’t want to spend the rest of my life regretting that, just over a silly thing like this? Where was my family loyalty? Where was my Christmas spirit?
It eventually reached the point where I said, rather angrily, “You want me to take several weeks off from work, fly to Salt Lake City, drive 6 hours in a rental car, to attend an anniversary and various other social events, including Christmas all the time pretending that I’m perfectly happy to be spending the holidays 1200 miles away from my husband! If Grandma told you your husband couldn’t come to Christmas dinner, would you go?”
“I’m just saying that your friend doesn’t belong at a family event.”
Recently I shared this story with a couple of friends while we were discussing family issues, and one friend who is ordinarily diplomatic and calm reacted to this part of the tale with a vehement, “F— them! He’s your husband and he’s sweet and smart and gives good hugs!”
And while 17 years ago I didn’t mention the hugs, my final words before hanging up were quite similar.
Seventeen years later, some of those family members still think that asking me to go to all that trouble and expense to be a closeted prop in their fantasy of a perfect 60th Anniversary Party/perhaps Final Extended Family Christmas Reunion was a perfectly reasonable request, and I’m the bad guy for not subjecting myself to that.
And I want to point out, that even after the initial call that ended with me saying that if my husband wasn’t welcome I wasn’t coming, I went ahead and did the research on what it would take to get there, maybe just to attend the party by myself and then come back home to spend Christmas with my husband. That’s why I talked about where I would fly into and how long the rental car drive would be assuming only typical winter driving conditions in the two mountain passes involved in the journey. I also want to point out that before they told me my husband wasn’t welcome, they had already told me that because of my “lifestyle” it was a given that none of the relatives who lived nearby were willing to have me stay in a guest room at their house, so two weeks at a hotel at my own expense was an assumed part of the event.
Despite that, for a while I did consider subjecting myself to at least some of that as a sop toward an illusion of family harmony or something.
So I understand why some people who otherwise appear to be reasonable and even understand what it is like to be part of an oppressed minority, sometimes get up in arms when some of us are perceived as being less than tolerant of other peoples’ intolerance.
People are up in arms about Tucker Carlson Facing Advertising Boycott Over Immigration Comments to the point that supposedly reasonable people, like FiveThirtyEightDotCom’s Nate Silver to say that this is going to end all political discourse. The argument being that if we assume advertisers are endorsing everything that is said on a political analysis show, that soon we will have no actual debates.
I have four initial responses to this so-called argument:
1) Fox News, the network that broadcasts Tucker’s show, doesn’t classify his show as either news or analysis. In official filings with the FCC, in order to avoid what few regulations remain about libel and so forth, Fox News classifies nearly every pundit you have ever heard of as “entertainment.”
2) Tucker is not engaging in political analysis or debate, he is spewing lies (not opinions, lies) and inciting hatred against specific ethnic groups, religious groups, and transgender people. He is not making good faith arguments. To equate his program (and Bill O’Reilly’s whose earlier boycotts are being alluded to by everyone writing to defend Carson) with a serious political analysis program is a false equivalence. Incitement is not analysis. A lie is not a difference of opinion. Saying that some people don’t have a right to exist in our society is not a policy dispute. Locking up children in concentration camps after stealing them from parents who lawfully presented themselves at a border crossing to request entry is not a simple implementation of existing law. For some other analysis on this: Tucker Carson’s Racism is Not ‘Political’.
3) It’s a classic slippery slope argument. It’s the equivalent of saying that charging the alt-right guy with murder after he intentionally drove his car into a crowd and killed an innocent person means that now no one is ever allowed to state an opinion again.
4. It’s hypocrisy. None of these people ever scolded the National Organization of Marriage when they were trying to organize boycotts of companies that extended medical benefits to same-sex partners of their employees, or tried to get shows that included a single queer character canceled. None of these defenders of free speech said that those boycotts would lead to the end of all health benefits or all TV shows and movies. They only come out when it is the proponents of hatred that are threatened with consequences.
And to tie this back to my opening anecdote: here are the parallels.
- My husband isn’t a friend and our life isn’t a lifestyle. He’s my husband. Trying to reclassify him doesn’t change the truth of our relationship.
- Being civil if I bring my husband to a family get-together isn’t a Herculean feat that no one has ever been expected to perform at a family event. Big extended family get-togethers of every family include some people that others present don’t approve of but that makes nice and deals with it. Being disapproved of by half the family is practically the definition of in-law, in some families!
- Bringing my husband to family events isn’t me forcing a political agenda on the family, nor does anyone being civil to him imply that they endorse everything that we believe. Just as Cousin Daisy bringing her husband that thinks the moon landing was faked doesn’t make any of us who are civil to them flat-earthers.
- It’s hypocritical to claim that my declining the “invitation” which excluded not just my husband, but also my true self was the rude act, while the exclusion itself is merely a reasonable request. Yes, it was their party, and they can choose who to invite, but it is also my invitation which I can choose to decline. And while I had to get huffy on the phone, my huffiness was restricted to the relatives who were harassing me after I had already, as politely as possible, declined the invitation.
Which isn’t to say that I believe the exclusionary invitation was the polite or correct thing for them to do in the first place, but no one is required to aid and abet their own denigration. Because it wasn’t just that my husband wasn’t invited, but also that I was expected to effectively go back into the closet for the length of my visit. I was expected to agree that there was something wrong with me, and something wrong with the person that I loved. Further, note that they didn’t just say he wasn’t invited to the party, they were insistent that he was not allowed to accompany me on the trip at all. Think about that, for a moment.
Me not attending the family event (at considerable trouble and expense) was not me abandoning my family. Nor was it a decision I should feel guilt and regret over for the rest of my life. Neither was it an attack on Christmas. Just as declining to be kicked in the teeth is not an assault on the would-be tooth kicker.
Finally, to be clear: when some of us contact companies whose products we use and express our displeasure that their money (money that ultimately comes from us) is being used to spread falsehoods and to incite or excuse violence, we are not telling anyone that they don’t have the right to any opinion that disagrees with us. This isn’t censorship, it is consequences.
On Saturday evening, while waiting to get seated for a thoroughly hilarious movie, I retweeted something about one of the presidential candidates. A friend replied that what I’d retweeted was B.S. I tried to figure out how to respond without coming across as dismissive or snarky. And I was not in a position to easily pull up links to back it up. And twitter isn’t a good place to try to have such conversations.
The friends asked me to send the links later. So the sole purpose of this post is to collect several links, most of which have already been posted on this blog. If you don’t want to read any more of my opinions on a particular presidential candidate, don’t click through on the Read More link below. Instead, may I suggest a happy link instead: This High School Cross-Country Team Takes Lonely Shelter Dogs On Their Morning Runs. That’s much more fun, no?
If you do want to read some citations supporting some things I’ve previously blogged about, click:
Now, in my previous blog post about why a vote for the Green Party candidate is a vote for Trump, what I said about Stein was that she flip-flops on this issue, depending on who she is talking to. Sometimes she’s anti-vaxx, sometimes she’s pro-homeopathy, and sometimes she is both pro-vaxx and anti-vaxx at the same time.
Snopes has decided that she’s not anti-vaxx primarily on the basis of one of those times that she was being both, and they have elided over part of the quote. Here’s a complete answer from a recent Washington Post interview: “I think there’s no question that vaccines have been absolutely critical in ridding us of the scourge of many diseases — smallpox, polio, etc. So vaccines are an invaluable medication. Like any medication, they also should be — what shall we say? — approved by a regulatory board that people can trust. And I think right now, that is the problem. That people do not trust a Food and Drug Administration, or even the CDC for that matter, where corporate influence and the pharmaceutical industry has a lot of influence. As a medical doctor, there was a time where I looked very closely at those issues, and not all those issues were completely resolved. There were concerns among physicians about what the vaccination schedule meant, the toxic substances like mercury which used to be rampant in vaccines. There were real questions that needed to be addressed. I think some of them at least have been addressed. I don’t know if all of them have been addressed.”
In other words, she’s like the racist who says, “I’m not racist, but…” and then lists anecdotes purporting to prove that people of a certain ethnic background are more prone to committing crimes or something similar. All of that stuff about people not trusting the FDA and that there are real questions that haven’t been addressed? That’s all straight out of typical anti-vaxx talking points. She is literally saying that she isn’t anti-vaxx but…, and then quoting all of the anti-vaxx language. It’s a dog whistle. The anti-vaxx people recognize that what she’s communicating to them are that vaccines are dangerous, that they shouldn’t trust the people who say they aren’t, and so forth.
So Snopes is wrong. Jill Stein promotes an anti-vaxx agenda, while pretending not to. I suspect that she probably isn’t sincerely anti-vaxx herself, but she’s promoting it for cynical political reasons. She’s being disingenuous when she says that there are real questions that haven’t yet been addressed. She flip-flops on it, because she knows that a significant fraction of the people idiotic enough to vote for her need to believe. But she also knows that some of the other people who are susceptible to her pitch aren’t anti-vaxx, so she tries to pander to both: Jill Stein Watered Down Her Own Statement Rejecting the Myth That Vaccines Cause Autism.
Similarly with the homeopathic stuff. She has used the language of homeopathy intermixed with statements that sound reasonable to someone who isn’t really familiar with the usual talking points of the homeopath quacks. She frequently falls back on claims that science hasn’t been able to prove absolutely beyond a shadow of a hint of a doubt that something isn’t caused by whatever is currently under discussion. Never mind that you can’t prove a negative, and what the standard is in science is to gather evidence, try to falsify your theory, and after lots of people have tested it in various ways, conclude that the preponderance of the evidence says thus and so.
And it’s not the only pseudo-science that she promotes: Jill Stein says it’s dangerous to expose kids to wifi signals.
She has no chance of winning. The person who is quoted in the graphic I linked above guesses her chance is one-tenth of a percent, but that wrong. She is not on the ballot in enough states to add up to the number of electoral votes needed to win. Many of the states where she is not on the ballot do not allow write-in votes for President. Many of the states where she is not on the ballot will not count write-in votes for President if the candidate has not registered electors with the state. The Green Party doesn’t have electors in most of those states.
It is literally impossible for her to win. That’s not an opinion, that’s fact.
Her candidacy is worse than a joke, it’s a scam. Don’t fall for it.
Cultural Note: My title today is a cultural reference to a one-woman play written by Pat Bond and Clifford Jarrett in the late 70s, Gertie, Gertie, Gertie Stein Is Back, Back, Back. Their title was itself a reference to the Time Square Reader Board’s report at the beginning of Gertrude Stein’s U.S. lecture tour in 1934. Please give yourself a prize if you recognized the reference.
My original statement had been: “Field candidates in more that 0.02% of elected offices. Build a base. Earn my vote.” And I @-ed the Green Party official twitter account. The reason I did that is because every four years for the last couple of decades, I (and anyone else who espouses progressive ideas online) get harassed by Green Party supporters urging me to vote for the Green candidate instead of the Democrat because the Democratic Party isn’t liberal enough.
And I’m tired of the harassment and harangues and histrionics.
In the 2000 election the Green Party had their biggest success: they put George W. Bush, a person who embodied everything the Green Party stands against, into office. By their own numbers, among the new Green voters they got that year were 24,000 in Florida who otherwise would have voted for Gore. Those 24,000 votes would have put Florida safely out of recount territory and would have prevented the eight disastrous years of Bush/Cheney we got.
The 2000 election was the Green’s best result because they got millions of votes nationwide, instead of their previous high of a bit less than 500,000. A big surge! Green principles must have been appealing to more people! Except that in every election since then, they’ve only managed about 460,000 votes nationwide… again. They didn’t turn any of those new voters into Green Party supporters after 2000. None. And they didn’t use that new support to improve their organization in any way, such as to get more of their candidates on the ballot in local races.
If you want to take the time of going to their national party website and literally by hand count the number of candidates they have run on the ballots in recent elections (because they have a horrible database that won’t give you the total, and they conveniently avoid mentioning the exact number in all their publications, even when asked by a columnist that they have vilified for reporting they don’t run local candidates), you find that they have about 116 candidates, compared to the total of 500,000 elected positions in the country. That’s 0.02% of the possible offices—not two percent, that’s two-one hundredths of a percent. Which is less than a drop in the bucket.
When I said “earn my vote” I meant the party needs to organize enough to run and win enough local races that they have party members with the necessary experience to then run for state-wide offices and start winning there. Not running 2 candidates for every 10,000 offices, as they are now. Not running celebrities that have name recognition and no applicable skills for governor in some states every now and then. Not running joke candidates for president every four years when you can’t get your party on enough state ballots where it would be even possible to win the electoral college.
One of the people who tried to argue with me on Saturday asked what could the party possibly do other than stating their policies. The answer doesn’t fit into 140 characters, but here’s part of it: Organize. Ring doorbells, find local problems that aren’t being addressed by the other parties, and find viable candidates to offer solutions. It means running candidates in off year elections. It will take years, I know. But yelling at people like me, telling me I’m not a real progressive because I’m voting for a candidate who actually has a chance of getting into office isn’t going to build your party. Getting millions of people to throw away their votes in the national election 16 years ago didn’t get the party any further than it had been before.
And just stating your policies isn’t going to do it, either. The left has a problem organizing because a lot of us fall prey to the notion that if they just put out a good idea, people would magically be drawn to them. The myth (and I used to think this, too) is that if the policy is good enough, we don’t have to do the hard work of recruiting and organizing and raising money and actually putting candidates on the ballot and getting them elected to city councils or state legislatures. And we get caught up in these endless debates about the best policy.
I’ve been to those meetings, where every week we try to get some work done, but someone wants to re-visit an issue we’ve already re-discussed ten times after reaching a decision a few months ago. No one who wants to discuss it has any new information, and truth be told, because the topic keeps being re-opened for discussion again and again, we haven’t really had a chance to see if the decision we thought we made months ago will work or not.
The Green Party is trotting out their candidate who flip-flops between multiple scientifically incorrect positions on medical care—anti-vaxxer, pro homeopathy, pro-and-anti-vaxxer at once—without explanation; and whose inconsistent foreign policy is more in line with the ravings of Trump than Trump’s running mate’s foreign policy comments are! They put forward a platform which with regards to domestic policy mirrors significantly the platform which the Democrats officially adopted yesterday.
Their current argument is since Bernie Sanders failed to win over a majority of Democratic Primary voters, that instead of voting for Hillary, people who liked Bernie’s policies should vote for the Green Party candidate. Never mind that when Sanders and Clinton were in the Senate together, they voted the same 91% of the time. Never mind that when she was in the Senate Hillary was more liberal than her husband, President Clinton had been, and that her campaign had more liberal stands that President Obama’s before she was pushed further to the left by Bernie Sanders. If Bernie was good enough, why isn’t 91% of Bernie worth voting for?
The argument is usually put forward that an election isn’t a horse race. I agree. It’s a hell of a lot more important than that. As a voter, I should vote for candidates that will make the world a better place. Part of making the world of better place means actually getting elected and having the organization and experience to enact at least some of their proposals.
The Green Party is not on enough state ballots to get the electoral votes to win. That’s a fact. Many states don’t allow write-in candidates for President (heck seven states don’t allow write-in candidates at all!). Many more won’t allow votes for a write-in candidate for President to be counted if the candidate doesn’t have electors properly registered with the state beforehand. So the likelihood that the Green Party candidate can be elected as President is so close to zero, it isn’t funny.
Before about 1940, it was not uncommon for Third Parties, rather than to nominate their own candidate for President and waste party money and resources on a campaign that didn’t stand a chance to win in the electoral college, to instead endorse the nominee of the larger party that most closely aligned with their platform. Then the party concentrated on down ballot elections. Since the Greens haven’t been able to get on enough ballots to have a mathematical chance at winning post-2000, I’d have more respect for them if they took that route
You can complain about ballot access. You can claim that both parties are corrupt. But it is an absolute lie that both parties are equally corrupt. And it is just as untrue to insist that neither party is better than the other for civil rights, health care, jobs, or the future of the planet. And if you let Trump become President, you will not make ballot access any easier in future elections; nor will you reduce corruption.
And it won’t be four years of gridlock. Trump and the Republicans in Congress will be rolling back progress in pretty much every social justice area that the Green Party cares about. In 2000 the Green Party argument was that if Bush/Cheney won and enacted their policies, a wave of voters would come to the Green Party’s way of thinking by 2004 and throw everyone out of office.
That didn’t happen.
I can’t tell you how to vote. If you want to shoot yourself in the foot by voting for the Green Party candidate and letting Trump win (and that’s a simple matter of math; that is what will happen), I can’t stop you. But know this: you aren’t just shooting yourself in the foot, you’re shooting a whole lot of the rest of us, too.
We’re not the enemy. Trump and the forces of hate are. Stop asking me to shoot myself in the foot at the ballot box. And stop claiming that you are doing anything more productive than that.