Why are people talking about Epstein like it’s a sex scandal?

It’s looking more and more likely that Jeffrey Epstein was neither a billionaire nor a money manager, but was instead running a blackmail factory for some intelligence agency.

Epstein appears to have been inviting powerful people over to his various mansions and private islands, providing them with underage girls to do what they want with, and then blackmailing them.

From The Week:

“Back in 2015, a woman named Virginia Roberts alleged that U.S. authorities had footage of her having underage sex with powerful friends of billionaire Epstein, who was charged by federal prosecutors on Monday with sex trafficking, including trafficking minors. Roberts said Epstein “debriefed her” after she had sex with these “associates” so that he would possess “intimate and potentially embarrassing information” that could be used for blackmail. Epstein’s allies dismissed Roberts as “a liar and a fantasist.”

But after Epstein was arrested on Saturday, a law enforcement search of his Upper East Side apartment reportedly revealed compact discs in a locked safe labeled “Young [Name] + [Name],” which, as The Intercept‘s Ryan Grim points out, could buttress Roberts’ allegations.”

The media has thrown around claims that Epstein is a billionaire and successful hedge fund manager, but there’s not a lot of evidence to back it up. His supposed peers, hedge fund managers, have been suspicious about him for years. From NY Mag Intelligencer:

“Intelligencer spoke to several prominent hedge-fund managers to get a read on what their practiced eyes are detecting in all the new information that is coming to light about Epstein in the wake of his indictment by federal prosecutors in New York. Most saw signs of something unsavory at the heart of his business model.

To begin with, there is much skepticism among the hedgies Intelligencer spoke with that Epstein made the money he has — and he appears to have a lot, given a lavish portfolio of homes and private aircraft — as a traditional money manager. A fund manager who knows well how that kind of fortune is acquired notes, “It’s hard to make a billion dollars quietly.” Epstein never made a peep in the financial world.

Epstein was also missing another key element of a typical thriving hedge fund: investors. Kass couldn’t find any beyond Epstein’s one well-publicized client, retail magnate Les Wexner — nor could other players in the hedge-fund world who undertook similar snooping. “I don’t know anyone who’s ever invested in him; he’s never talked about by any of the allocators,” says one billionaire hedge-fund manager, referring to firms that distribute large pools money among various funds.””

So where did he get that money? What was he accomplishing with all this blackmail? Disgraced former Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta just resigned over the bizarrely lenient deal he cut with Epstein in 2007 when Acosta was the US Attorney for southern Florida. When asked ““Is the Epstein case going to cause a problem [for confirmation hearings]?” while being interviewed by the Trump administration for the Secretary of Labor position Acosta said “He’d cut the non-prosecution deal with one of Epstein’s attorneys because he had “been told” to back off, that Epstein was above his pay grade. “I was told Epstein ‘belonged to intelligence’ and to leave it alone,”” Acosta dodged the question when asked more recently about that exchange.

So can we all stop talking about this story like it’s a lurid scandal that might be embarrassing for a few famous people and start talking about it as some intelligence agency, foreign or domestic, implementing a blackmail honeypot on a massive scale among the shadier elements of the American elite?

Arizona Senate Shenanigans

“Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, is legally required to fill vacancies in Arizona’s US Senate delegation. Whoever Ducey chooses will stay in office until 2020. The governor has remained silent on who he has in mind out of respect for McCain and his family. By Arizona state law, he must tap someone of the same party as McCain — meaning a Republican — and he’s ruled himself out.”

“If McCain’s seat doesn’t open up soon, there is a possibility that it won’t be Gov. Ducey who appoints his replacement, as he is up for reelection this year. He is expected to win his primary on Tuesday against Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who earlier this year found himself in hot water over declarations that he wouldn’t choose Cindy McCain as the senator’s replacement. Ducey will face the winner of the Democratic primary — former Arizona Department of Education official and professor David Garcia, state Sen. Steve Farley, or Kelly Fryer, the CEO of the YWCA Southern Arizona — in November. They’ve all declined to say who they might appoint to McCain’s seat if elected.”

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/8/25/17781526/john-mccain-replacement-arizona-governor-doug-ducey

Okay did you read the above? The situation as I see it is this: Whoever is governor of Arizona when McCain dies has to appoint a Republican to replace him and serve through 2020. Arizona is coming up on a competitive gubernatorial election. So there’s a very real possibility that we could have a Democratic governor in Arizona bound by law to appoint a Republican to the Senate.

If it comes to that, who should they appoint? Who are the best available registered Republicans, ideally Arizona Republicans, for a Democratic governor to pick?

 

Drug Legalization

I find this article pretty outrageous: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/8/6/17649036/fda-fentanyl-opioid-epidemic-drug-legalization

It’s basically saying that the opioid epidemic demonstrates why we shouldn’t legalize more drugs. To me the evidence it presents lends itself more to an indictment of the current system and thus advocacy for legalization.

High potency synthetic opioids like fentanyl were not “legalized” in the sense that you can now go buy them at the store, they were approved by the FDA to be prescribed in a somewhat wider variety of circumstances than previously. This was all about pharmaceutical companies lobbying doctors to prescribe more of those drugs, and then relying on people’s health insurance to pick up the tab for the insanely high prices ($30,000 per month!).

Needless to say that’s not what a legal but regulated market for recreational drugs looks like. There will not be any doctors trying to tempt you to partake in a bit of heroin, nor will your health insurance be interested in buying it for you. Ideally drug advertisement, whether the drugs are medicinal or recreational, currently illegal or currently legal, could be banned altogether.

The way the legal opioid dealers in big pharma have managed to capture the drug regulation apparatus to push their pills on people looking for medical health is disgusting and we need to do something about it, but banning people from putting what they want in their bodies is not the way to go about it.

The irony of Marxist materialism

The history of Marxism is really weird because it’s an ideology premised on materialism that then had huge idealist effects on the world.

Materialism in this sense means history is explained by material factors – population growth, economic growth, technological advance, etc. This is in contrast to idealism, which says ideas, from religions to philosophies to… Marxism are more in the driver’s seat.

Marx had this spectacular analysis of capitalism in the mid-1800s. He was seeing the infancy of industrialization and was remarkably insightful as to what had happened, and prescient in where it was all leading. He saw that industrial capitalism was going to eat the world, and predicted that after that had happened the situation would become clear to the working class and the revolution would come.

This is where the strangeness comes in – the biggest obstacle to everything playing out as Marx anticipated turned out to be Marxism! Countries that in his materialist understanding were just ready for a liberal revolution to replace feudalism and monarchy with capitalism and democracy started to have communist revolutions instead! A lot of the people in those countries who in an earlier era would have been liberal dissidents instead ended up as socialists, and when the opportunity came to take power they didn’t content themselves with ushering in the same liberal capitalism they saw their socialist comrades fighting in more advanced countries, they tried to build socialism!

So then while capitalism was still in the process of eating the world there emerged this force Marx never anticipated – Leninists. They created a whole different kind of society from any Marx had experienced: the planned economy. Whether you define it as socialist or Marxist or not is immaterial, it was quite different from capitalism. Imagine if the Soviets had won the Cold War! Unlikely but not inconceivable, and it would have put us on a historical track Marx didn’t envision. And of course the very existence of that real threat forced capitalist regimes to accept a level of social democracy they haven’t shown much interested in before or after that threat was around. An external enemy does wonders for submerging the class conflict.

But instead the various Leninist states fell apart or at least gave up on the planned economy, proving to be just a particularly hardy version of all the other unsuccessful efforts by the periphery to resist capitalist domination. The post-WWII social democratic experiment turns out to have just been a longer term version of the benefits workers tend to get from any war mobilization. And we are back on track with Marx’s predictions, with capitalism having made a lot of progress on eating the world and socialism on the rise politically in the core capitalist economies.

So maybe Marx would tell us he was right all along, and that the whole Leninist global movement was just a minor thing on the grand scale of the dialectic. The real irony might be that the strongest argument against Marx would be that the Leninists really could have changed everything.

White Identity Politics

White people don’t like to be called white people: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/7/26/17613844/diversity-poll-twitter-white-people

First let me say god damn you Vox for having articles I like to read but no comments section in which to discuss them onsite, forcing me to keep quiet or advertise for Vox by sharing their articles in order to talk about them (like I’m doing now).

That throat clearing out of the way, the article above is a fairly interesting discussion of how white Americans react to being reminded they are just one group with its own particular perspective rather than being default / normal / generic people with no identity but the one they choose. Spoiler, they’re not fans:

“Indeed, as research on “priming” shows, simply discussing race at all kicks up those effects among the racially dominant group. Or to put it more bluntly, in the US context: White people really don’t like being called white people. They don’t like being reminded that they are white people, part of a group with discernible boundaries, shared interests, and shared responsibilities.”

The article’s take on that situation is basically that white people need to bite the bullet and accept their status as one more identity group “with particular interests, settling differences via democracy.”

The reason I share this is that the author seems oblivious to the fact that this is already happening, and the consequences are not great. Oddly, through the whole piece he never mentions what it would look like or mean for whites to actually do what he recommends and accept themselves as a separate and distinctive identity group. It seems to me that it means white nationalism. If you tell white people “think about yourselves as this ‘white people’ group and act in the interests of that group” what do you think they’re going to do? Probably be against affirmative action programs that discriminate against white people huh? Probably not in favor of allowing a lot of non-white immigration that will reduce the political dominance of whites? Probably not promoting the general tearing down of the structural racism that advantages whites?

To me it looks like the white population is gradually starting to treat itself more like an identity group, and that looks like the rise of Trump, ethno-nationalism, white nationalism, white supremacy, and all those other words that mean “look out for whites and fuck everyone else.”

It’s of course not inherently wrong for a group to consider its interests and act accordingly. The problem in the United States is that whites already have everything stacked in their favor and are in the process of seeing things become a little less stacked in their favor. So a movement on behalf of white interests as such basically means a movement in defense of the racial hierarchy that puts whites on top. Maybe someday whites will be getting screwed badly enough that a “pro-white” agenda will be as positive of a force as a “pro-black” agenda currently is, but that’s not the situation currently.

So I really don’t want white Americans to double down on their white identity. What I want politically is a renewed focus of most white Americans on their identity as workers, or at least as Americans. If this country is going to function it’d be nice to encourage the majority group to embrace a shared identity that also includes minority groups, rather than an exclusive racial identity that leaves much of the country on the outside. It seems like that should be the standard view among people who are not in fact white nationalists. I’m concerned that a lot of American liberals don’t get that because their conception of politics is basically “support the political agendas of minority identity groups.” That’s of course a noble goal, but only because those groups are disadvantaged and need to organize to even get close to equal footing with the white majority. Encouraging that majority to organize in the same way might seem like a logical thing for people with that attitude, but it’s a recipe for disaster.

Homelessness and Crappy Benches

image

As an extraordinarily privileged non- homeless person, the way I am most directly harmed by our nation’s embarrassingly awful policies on the issue is as collateral damage in my city’s attempt to make life as miserable as possible for the homeless.

This might seem like hyperbole, but really it’s literally true. Local governments don’t like having homeless people in their district. And can you blame them? I don’t want there to be homeless people anywhere! The problem is that there are two ways to get rid of a homeless person. The first and best is of course to give that person a home. The second and far cheaper is to get that person to leave town and go be homeless somewhere else. Even with the cost difference, this doesn’t seem insurmountable. What really pushes cities towards option two is that being nice to the homeless draws in more homeless people. Who wouldn’t want to move to the city giving away free houses? They’re still doing good in aggregate, but from a single city perspective doing the right thing can seem like it’s making the problem even worse.

So we’re in the world of option two: cities are competing to see who can make things worse for the homeless,  with the prize being that the homeless people in your city might go be someone else’s problem.

And finally we get back to me, typing this post on the bus bench pictured above,  which is literally a pain in my ass. It’s just generally a poorly made bench, except for the one design metric where it passes with flying colors: it would be really hard to sleep on.

In conclusion,  if you want nicer benches in your city (or more water fountains, or public electric outlets, and so on) the solution is to demand action to end homelessness on a national level.

Funny how all our problems are connected.