Category Archives: Current Events

Essays on topical issues in the news, from around the world, by Wayne K. Spear

The Rot At The Top

Alex Acosta

Was the President involved in the crimes of Jeffrey Epstein?

✎  WAYNE K. SPEAR | JULY 8, 2019 • Current Events

W

HEN FBI AGENTS crowbarred their way into the Manhattan home of Jeffrey Epstein, evidence of his crimes was uncovered in a cache of pornographic videos and photographs. No one informed in this topic need be surprised by the chutzpah of a registered high-risk sex offender with a child-porn stash. It’s not as if Epstein hasn’t all along believed in his own version of a Fifth Avenue shooting, that he can do what he wants in broad daylight and get away with it. So far he has, thanks to rich and powerful acquaintances.

At times it was as if he were flaunting. Early in 2003, the journalist Vicky Ward was a guest at Epstein’s home. He left out one book and one book alone for her to notice, The Misfortunes of Virtue, by Donatien Alphonse François, better known as the Marquis de Sade—author of The 120 Days of Sodom and Philosophy in the Bedroom. Well, I mean. The article submitted to Vanity Fair included rape allegations Ward had uncovered, a subject excised entirely by Graydon Carter, at Epstein’s request, from the published version, “The Talented Mr. Epstein.” Between the first and the final drafts, Epstein phoned Ward’s office to tell her how good she looked, before resorting to threats and personal attacks.

Of course the authors of puff-pieces like the preceding Vanity Fair example could not have known then what we know now. What they had were quotations such as this, recorded in 2002 by Landon Thomas Jr. for New York magazine:

I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years—terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it—Jeffrey enjoys his social life.

This speaker now happens to be President of the United States, and the phrase “on the younger side” now happens to be understood as a euphemism for child rape, sexual slavery (according to Vicky Ward, sex slave was a phrase used by Epstein) and what Daily Beast reporter Kate Briquelet has called “a pyramid scheme of predation.” Not only did Epstein rape children, he recruited and paid them to bring other children for him to rape and recruit. In doing so he destroyed many lives, a number of his victims having died of drug overdose and suicide. This week’s news means that the victims, of whom there are now thought to be in access of a hundred, will relive their agony. Epstein in the meantime has enjoyed his considerable wealth, even throughout a 13-month sentence that permitted him to go to his office every day and to travel by private jet (one of which, used by Bill Clinton, was nicknamed the Lolita Express) to his properties in Palm Beach, New Mexico, Paris, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Read the indictment of Jeffrey Epstein

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For over a decade the child rapist Jeffrey Epstein has been a registered high-risk sex offender. The list of people who have aided, enabled, and sheltered him both before and after this designation is likely long and will include names that are familiar to the reader. His long-time partner and enabler Ghislaine Maxwell is certain to figure in any credible indictment, and there should also be a reckoning for Alexander Acosta, who buried an investigation into Epstein’s crimes and shielded not only actual co-conspirators but theoretical and potential ones also. Only the tenacity of the victims, and the extraordinary work of journalists like Julie K. Brown, has made an eventual reckoning thinkable. At the very least Acosta—appointed Secretary of Labor by Donald Trump and made responsible for the country’s human sex trafficking laws—should be forced to resign.

Attorney General Bill Barr
Attorney General Bill Barr won’t recuse himself from Jeffrey Epstein case. Barr’s father, Donald, hired Epstein to teach at the Dalton School in New York. Epstein tutored the children of Bear Stearns Chairman, Alan Greenberg, and was later hired as an options trader.

Acosta’s resignation, much like the clean-up of which it would be a part, requires the steel of an administration that is crime-and-corruption averse. But of course what we have instead is a President whose adult life has been an elbow-rubbing and shoulder-slapping of conmen and crooks and thugs. Whatever the character of their relationship, Epstein and Trump are cut of the same cloth. Vicky Ward tells us that Epstein is “someone who wants to be known for the scale of his possessions” and who purchased Manhattan’s largest private residence (51,000 square-feet and nine stories) so there would be nowhere bigger to live. Epstein was a New York City-Palm Beach libertine who wanted to be known for his wealth and his pursuit of women. His modeling agency was itself modelled after Trump’s. So it’s reasonable to wonder how involved with Epstein, if at all, the President was. ⌾

The Arc of The Deal

The Trump years have taught us to be shocked but not surprised

✎  WAYNE K. SPEAR | JUNE 18, 2019 • Politics

Trump on the escalator

A

S I WRITE THESE WORDS Donald Trump takes to the sky to begin his re-election campaign, fittingly at the Amway Center, a company associated with multi-level marketing and evangelical Christianity. Four years ago his ascension began with a descent (by escalator) and so as the President climbs tonight one hopes for the historical symmetry of an eventual fall. Up he goes today; may he go down tomorrow. There are encouraging signs. When Trump lands, this headline will be waiting: “Our Orlando Sentinel endorsement for president in 2020: Not Donald Trump.”

Enough of the chaos, the division, the schoolyard insults, the self-aggrandizement, the corruption, and especially the lies. So many lies — from white lies to whoppers — told out of ignorance, laziness, recklessness, expediency or opportunity. Trump’s capacity for lying isn’t the surprise here, though the frequency is. It’s the tolerance so many Americans have for it.

An exhaustive inventory of the President’s deficiencies would be exhausting but also unnecessary, there being already many such compilations. In 2016 anyone who cared to know what Trump was knew what Trump was. For decades he had committed to drawing attention to himself. The tolerance of “so many Americans”—62,984,828 to be precise—was in many cases enthusiasm. Sixty-three million voters saw the qualities that the Orlando Sentinel editors see and cast their vote approvingly. The editorial evades the logical conclusion that Trump is no good for democracy and America but American voters (on a diet of reality television) aren’t much good for these either.

Tomorrow’s Sentinel will likely carry stories of white-power nationalists and of rowdy Orlando streets. For the garden-variety racists and the neo-Nazis and the theocrats and the admirers of dictatorship past and present, there has never been a better time to be alive in America. Whatever else one may say of them, the years 2016 to 2020 will be looked back upon by these elements as an American Golden Age, a time when views long driven to the margins could once again emerge into the daylight. Many impracticable objects, such as the mass-deportation of immigrants and state rule by Christian doctrine, became conceivable under Trump. Obama had often quoted Martin Luther King Jr on the “arc of the moral universe.” Maybe that arc could be turned back.

In a thousand ways big and small this has been the work of the current administration. In Donald Trump’s America a class of people who had learned to regard themselves as persona non grata were suddenly in demand and for positions in the highest of public offices. One after another grifters and cheaters and thieves and wife abusers ascended to Cabinet Secretary and Justice and Senior Advisor. And down they came, to be replenished by a fresh influx of third-rate crooks and malcontents. The Best People, according to the President. How surprised they must have been at their good fortune, just as the President himself must have been surprised by the outcome of his campaign.

The Trump years however have taught us that surprise has an arc as well and that it bends not toward justice but uncertainty. In 2015 a reality TV character pursued the Oval Office, and although he was mocked and dismissed, and for good reasons, he prevailed on the votes of 63 million Americans. In 2019 however he will be taken seriously. We are still capable of being shocked, but no longer of being surprised. ⌾