Let’s begin with this: These Senators Sold Millions Worth of Stock After Private Briefings on the Impending Coronavirus Crisis . First, I want to point out that the original headline talks about Republican Senators, but even in the initial breaking story, there was one Democrat, as well. So I fixed the headline. So, Senators receive a number of classified briefings about the looming pandemic, and several of them, just coincidentally, sold off millions of dollars in stock in industries likely to take a hit. At least one of them doing so while simultaneously writing editorials and going on the various news shows to insist that the country was ready to handle any such emergency and that everything was going to be fine.
One of those Senators has been trying to defend herself by claiming that all the sales were done without her knowledge, but the problem is that her husband, who just so happens to be the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, also unloaded a bunch of stock after the briefings. Most of the others are trying to defend themselves by claiming the sales conform to the law… And it is true that the law gives Congresspeople a lot of leeway to do this sort of thing: An Invitation to Corruption – As long as lawmakers are allowed to trade individual stocks, disaster profiteering is always a risk.
The short version is that members of congress are allowed to buy and sell stock based on public information that they learn during the course of their work so long as the transactions are reported within 30 days. Which is very lenient, because the definition of public information is broad. As congress people receiving briefings, the information they received is often contextualized in a way that the information isn’t available to the general public. In other words, they have taxpayer-funded help sorting out the signal from the noise, while the taxpayers are left with the noise…
However, the information received in classified briefings shouldn’t count as public information. So I think a few of these guys might actually suffer consequences. I mean, even Tucker Carlson, who normally defends any crime and outrage every single Republican commits has called this one out: Tucker Carlson demands a Republican senator either explain his stock sell-off or resign – “There is no greater moral crime than betraying your country in a time of crisis.”.
I nearly spit my coffee all over my keyboard when I saw the word “moral” coming out of Carson’s mouth. But, even a broken clock is correct sometimes!
And as the story developed House members, Senate aides traded stocks in early days of coronavirus. We know that it is a lot more members of Congress involved.
Part of the reason it is so outrageous that the law is so lax on this is because not only do members of congress have access to information that the public doesn’t, but they write and vote on laws that funnel tax dollars into various efforts. In private business, insider trading laws recognize that employees of publicly-traded companies have information before the public does, and therefore are in a position to sell their own stock at times just before information that will greatly devalue that same stock once it is know. Such trades are effectively stealing money from the people who are buying those stocks. So it’s illegal for employees of private companies to buy or sell the stock when they are in possession of information the public doesn’t yet have. Executives, who not only have a lot more information than the average employee but can also change policies within the company that effect the value, are limited to very narrow windows, beginning a number of days after quarterly earning reports are published, and ending a short time later.
Members of Congress have no such limitation.
It isn’t just corrupt politicians we have to worry about profiteering off of a national crisis. A lot of other rich a-holes are similarly morally bankrupt: Wall Street Journal Types Wonder Aloud If Nation’s Health Is ‘Worth’ The Economic Hit – Not making that up. Stephen Moore of The Heritage Foundation and his former colleagues at The Wall Street Journal are “asking the question” if COVID mitigation measures are “worth” the economic hit..
If you must have the sanctity of human life explained to you, maybe you shouldn’t be allowed to be in charge of anything. At all.
Let’s end with this: Rachel Maddow: Media Needs to Stop Airing Trump’s Lie-Filled COVID-19 ‘Fairytale’ Press Briefings —
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A lot of my life has involved the struggle not to be defined by the assumptions of bigots. Whether it was being called sissy, faggot, or worse while being bullied as a kid, or being called depraved, hell-bound, or worse while being denied legal equality as an adult.
As irritated as I get when someone tells me that I could stop being gay if I really wanted to, or that if I just met the right woman I would feel differently, or if I read the Bible and prayed hard enough it would all go away, you would think that I would never, ever say or imply that someone else is “really” something other than they claim, particularly in the area of sexual orientation.
You might think.
I have been called (somewhat angrily) a hypocrite for not believing at least one person who claimed to be ex-gay…
Why that is so hilarious is that the IML conference, the Folsom Street Fair, and the pride events he “sneaks into” are all open to the public. Furthermore, all of those events encourage their members to send in the pictures they themselves take at events to post on their web sites. You can go to the IML website and find links to attendees’ Instagram streams of themselves and their partners in all their naughty gear. In other words, he doesn’t need to go in disguise. He doesn’t need to sneak in. He doesn’t even need to attend in order to get all these shocking pictures. He can just go to a few social media sites and search on a few hashtags to gather all the shocking pictures he wants.
So in addition to being a hate monger (he and his organization continue to quote long-debunked and wholly disproven “research” claiming that all gay people are pedophiles, that being gay is caused by incest, that kids who come out as gay will rape their siblings, et cetera, et cetera) and a sleazeball who leverages prurient imagery to titillate and shock in order to manipulate people into donating to his cause, he’s also a liar. Because he isn’t sneaking into any of these places. He isn’t uncovering things that people are trying to keep hidden.
On Friday he was briefly detained at the Canadian border because the literature he was carrying with him appeared to violate Canada’s hate speech laws. Not surprising, given how hateful his stuff usually is. Eventually they decided to let him and his papers enter the country, but he spent the entire weekend appearing on every rightwing radio show and so forth that he could, talking up how horribly he was treated and how the Canadian policies violated his religious liberty.
He has since escalated, having gone to a university to distribute his literature and spout off his hate. And when he was asked to leave, he refused, then proceeded to kicked up a fuss until the police were called to arrest him. I think he assumed he would be released on his own recognizance right away, just like the Canadian anti-abortion/anti-gay activist who was arrested with him. But he’s been held in custody until he can face a deportation hearing.
Given his long-running history of using lies, titillating imagery, and shocking “facts” to attract attention and donations, one must conclude that this was all on purpose. We know from tax filings of most of the other anti-gay organizations that donations have been plummeting the last several years. Support for gay rights in general and gay marriage in particular has been going up, up, up throughout the country.
We also know he’s done this sort of thing before: picking fights with audience members at the speaking events of gay rights activists, getting removed by police, then going on the rightwing talk circuit to explain how he was abused “merely for stating his religious beliefs.”
He isn’t merely stating his beliefs. Demonizing gay people has been his livelihood for about two decades. For nearly twenty years he has earned his living by doing things like convince evangelical and fundamentalist parents that they must kick their gay kids out or bully them (often leading to suicide), then turn around and use those gay homeless teen death and gay teen suicide statistics to beg for more donations and convince more parents to abuse and reject their children.
And now the money seems to be drying up. So, sitting in a jail cell in a nice, civilized country like Canada is probably a smart move. It will amp up the sympathy from that shrinking rightwing base. It will get him appearances on radio and TV shows where if he doesn’t get paid, he’ll at least get free advertising. It will probably land him some new paid speaking gigs. Donations will take an uptick for a while.
A few nights being held by the mounties in a low security cell is a very small price to pay for that.
My earlier post about the apology issued by Exodus International President, Alan Chambers, just hours before they officially announced they were shutting down wasn’t the only one that expressed skepticism. But there were a lot more places out their taking only a very superficial read of the apology on the first couple of days.
I don’t claim any special knowledge. All I did was read every word of the long apology as posted by Mr Chambers, and then read a live blog from the conference of the closure announcement, and then read the entire official statement published by the organization. A simple, literal reading of each entire statement reveals that, contrary to how some people reported it, they are not renouncing their condemnation of homosexuality they are not abandoning their insistence that gay people must either be celibate or enter into an opposite sex sham relationship to be “right with god,” and they are not apologizing for the harm they caused.
But don’t take my word for it:
John Shore: An open letter to Exodus International’s super-remorseful Alan Chambers. His first money quote:
And congratulations on all the press coverage your apology is receiving!… Why, it’s almost like you’ve been strategically planning your heartfelt apology for months!
But he gets bonus points for:
…you’re no different from the guy saying, “I apologize for being the leader of a group of white-hooded KKK guys who burned a cross on your lawn. That was wrong. You n—–s still need to go, of course. But we’re gonna stop with the hoods and the cross burnings. People just don’t get behind that the way they used to. So we’re gonna regroup, lose the name ‘KKK,’ and come up with a more acceptable way of promoting what we believe. Isn’t that great?!”
When I read that one to my husband, he said, “Yeah! We’re not going to wear those white hoods any more. Now we’re dressing up in blue hood. Blue’s a warm, welcoming, friendly color, right? What? You say they still look like the same old white hoods? No! They’re blue! It’s just a very, very pale blue…”
An apology from an organization with a history of purging content from their website without an official redaction will always ring hollow. Closing it down and launching a new one like the last one didn’t exist won’t cut it. Let me be clear: There’s nothing shameful about admitting the terrible things you wrote and said were wrong, and taking full responsibility for them. In fact, this is an honorable and difficult thing to do. The problem is, the people who once led Exodus haven’t done this yet.
Then there’s Jane Brazell: Exodus International: harm repackaged is still harm, where it is noted:
We lost friends, family, and community; we were told that we would not inherit the Kingdom of God – that we were no longer a child of God. That’s what I wanted to hear from him. I wanted to hear that he sees LGBTQ people as holy, that our relationships are holy, that we are in fact beloved children of God and that nothing will separate us from that love. I wanted to hear that he recognizes the courage it took for us to come out and live wholly before God and the world. I didn’t hear that…
And then here’s one where the person ignores all the parts of the apology where they said, “if some people felt pain” rather than “we harmed people,” but she still isn’t giving them a pass: Rev. Dr. Cindi Love: Apologies Are Too Late When the Damage Is Already Done. Money quote:
“Unfortunately, they misled the people they claimed to want to “help.” Last year, Exodus President Alan Chambers reported that 99.9 percent of people who engaged in reparative therapy did not change their orientation.”
And, as several of us predicted, they’ve already announced the formation of a new ministry to create “mutually transforming communities” which they plan to call ReducedFear.Org. Transforming? Right, totally different than “curing” or “repairing” or “changing”—oh, wait, it isn’t.
But it is exactly the opposite of “accepting” or “affirming.”
So, Exodus International, the oldest of the so-called ex-gay/reparative therapy ministries announced last night that they are closing down. A few hours before the announcement, which they made at a conference full of their members, the current president of the organization, Alan Chambers, issued an apology to the gay/lesbian/bi/trans community.
Other religious conservatives are angry, calling them sell-outs and worse.
A lot of other people at the other end of the political spectrum seem to be very surprised that most of us gay people aren’t jumping up and down with joy, accepting the apology, and saying that all is forgiven because someone has said they’re sorry. They are disappointed that we don’t seem to understand that saying you’re sorry is only the first step in the type of redemption and forgiveness model that the people who work for Exodus International have been raised in.
I agree that an apology is only the first step—and it is an important step—in the process of making amends. Except, in order to be that first step, the apology has to be for the actual wrong that you have committed. This apology is not that in the slightest.
The bulk of the apology is about incidental things. He apologizes that some (many) of the counsellors used the so-called therapy as a way to gratify their own sexual desires. He apologizes because some people “found a message rather than mission”—which may qualify as the most convoluted way to say, “if people were offended” ever. He apologizes for neglecting to mention in his own personal story that the so-called cure has never actually made his own attraction to members of the same sex go away. He apologizes for “failing to acknowledge the pain some people experienced.”
It goes on and on. But he never apologizes for the actual wrong: he never apologizes for lying, living the lie, or pressuring other people to live the same lie. In fact, he explicitly says that he is not apologizing for his “deeply held biblical beliefs.” And that’s the heart of the problem. They may be deeply held beliefs, but they aren’t biblical. Don’t go quoting that tired verse from Leviticus at me unless you’re prepared for a long lecture about declensions in Hebrew, and unless you’ve been willing to stone someone to death for the abomination of wearing clothes made of more than one kind of fabric, okay?
In their long announcement at the conference of their decision to close down, one of the board members said, “We’re not negating the ways God used Exodus to positively affect thousands of people…”
Except that nothing positive has ever been accomplished by this group. Nothing. Guilting, coercing, and bullying people into denying their feelings, luring them in with the false hope (and they’ve known it was a false hope for well more than a decade or two) of a “cure,” then handing them instead a lifetime without love, affection, or intimacy are not positive things. Bullying people until they commit suicide is not a positive thing. Encouraging parents to kick their gay children who don’t change after going through the torture they call therapy out on the street is not a positive thing.
I admit that I am not impartial. While I have never been through any of these therapies, I have had friends and relatives who did give them a try. Most of them survived. One wound up killing himself outright. Another essentially drank himself to death over the course of a few years. One cousin who went through ex-gay therapy has lived his entire life since alone, never dating anyone. He’s dependent on antidepressants and some other drug he once called his “temptation dampener.” I have no idea what the second drug actually is, because among the bewildering array of rules and restrictions he has continued to live under for years is a prohibition against talking unsupervised with anyone who is openly gay or who was supportive of him when he was “in the lifestyle.”
Other relatives have refused to accept me for who I am, and/or refused to welcome my husband (either Ray when he was still alive, or now more than a decade and a half after Ray’s death, Michael), precisely because that one cousin has “been able to change.”
The god they claim to believe in promised not just life, but life abundant. Living alone, constantly afraid of talking to the wrong person, afraid that a little emotional intimacy might lead to forbidden acts, only getting through the day with the help of drugs to kill the libido, and other drugs to kill the very natural depression that comes from living alone, afraid of any intimacy, and a drug-neutralized libido is not abundant life.
The truth is that Exodus and their ilk have lost the fight on a society-wide level. All of these anti-gay organizations have seen their donor pools shrink dramatically in the last few years. Support is dropping off even among many traditional conservative religious circles. Support is practically non-existent among teen and early-twenties aged evangelical and fundamentalist Christians. Surveys indicate that a major factor in many young adults leaving the churches in which they were raised is all the anti-gay rhetoric. The writing is on the wall. These guys aren’t shutting down because they’ve had a change of heart. They are shutting down in hopes of re-grouping and finding a new way to attract donors and supporters.
And to top it all off, their deflecting, delusional, and self-serving announcement about why they are closing ended by quoting a bible verse that used to be my favorite, John 16:33. They quoted a different translation than my preferred one. I’m going to stick with mine: “In the world you will face tribulation, but be of good cheer! For I have overcome the world.”
That may be what has angered me most about their non-apology. They have not faced tribulation, they are the tribulation others have faced. They have institutionalized bigotry, and turned it into a process which does not spread love and joy and forgiveness, but rather grinds people down with shame, fear, and lies. They are the very thing that their lord came to overcome, not the other way around.
If they ever realize that, if they ever apologize for being so very, very wrong, I might be willing to consider it their first step in a process by which they may eventually earn forgiveness.
But so far, they aren’t even looking in the right direction.