August 12, 2019

Jeffrey Epstein's Death

“Disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein was found dead on Saturday after an apparent suicide in the New York jail cell where he was being held without bail on sex-trafficking charges.” Reuters

Both sides are frustrated that Epstein’s victims will not get their day in court:

“It is not an exaggeration to say that there are thousands of similar victims in America out there watching this case and wondering if they will be heard, believed and protected if they come forward. So ask yourself: How can we as a society ask them to stand up and speak out if we are willing to let a wealthy and connected alleged sex trafficker effectively evade justice by suicide? Many questions still remain about what happened in this case. But what is perfectly clear is that this should not — this cannot — be the end.”
Andrea Powell, NBC News

“Epstein’s victims, law enforcement and the public have now been deprived of the right to see him stand trial and be held accountable for the many crimes he is accused of committing. The women who said they were Epstein’s victims had a right to confront Epstein in court – both from the witness stand and during sentencing if he wound up being convicted… We can no longer levy any punishment against Epstein. But his victims deserve justice, and anyone who assisted him in his crimes deserves prosecution.”
Robert Bianchi, Fox News

They also condemn the urge to blame one’s political opponents for Epstein’s death:

Mr. Epstein’s apparent suicide is, in many ways, the post-truth nightmare scenario. The sordid story contains almost all the hallmarks of stereotypical conspiratorial fodder: child sex-trafficking, powerful global political leaders, shadowy private jet flights, billionaires whose wealth cannot be explained. As a tale of corruption, it is so deeply intertwined with our current cultural and political rot that it feels, at times, almost too on-the-nose. The Epstein saga provides ammunition for everyone, leading one researcher to refer to Saturday’s news as the ‘Disinformation World Cup’…

“Saturday’s online toxicity may have felt novel, but it’s part of a familiar cycle: What cannot be easily explained is answered by convenient untruths. The worst voices are rewarded for growing louder and gain outsize influence directing narratives. With each cycle, the outrage and contempt for the other builds. Each extreme becomes certain its enemy has manipulated public perception; each side is the victim, but each is also, inexplicably, winning. The poison spreads.”
Charlie Warzel, New York Times

“The one thing that both sides seem to agree on is that they believe the other side to be capable of anything, including murder. In an already tense political situation, spreading conspiracy theories only serves to further inflame political passions. We should all sit back, take a deep breath, and wait for the facts before we make up our minds rather than squaring facts with what we want to believe.”
David Thornton, The Resurgent

Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted, “Scrutiny of how #Epstein was able to commit suicide is warranted. But the immediate rush to spread conspiracy theories about someone on the ‘other side’ of partisan divide having him killed illustrates why our society is so vulnerable to foreign disinformation & influence efforts.”
Marco Rubio, Twitter


Finally, many are skeptical about the prison system in general:

“You don’t have to believe in conspiracy to question the competence of the Federal Bureau of Prisons… The death by apparent suicide of the politically connected financier couldn’t have been scripted better to undermine trust in law enforcement and the prison and legal systems… Mr. Barr has asked the Justice Department inspector general and the FBI to investigate, and the results need to be made public for the sake of public confidence.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“Having dealt with BOP for many years, I believe Epstein's suicide could have been prevented had prison officials followed the policies and protocols in place for at-risk inmates. But I don't think that means that the prison guards or staff intentionally looked the other way while Epstein killed himself. In my practice, I have often been frustrated by the incompetence of certain BOP correctional officers and management. While it is possible something more nefarious was at play, I think it is much more likely that Epstein's suicide was the result of negligence and not some grand conspiracy.”
Page Pate, CNN

If you are shocked by a jail suicide you aren’t paying attention to the grim conditions of incarceration in America… inmate suicides are such a regular part of life in American prisons and jails that none of us should be surprised whenever they occur. They are the leading cause of death behind bars, and have been for many years, and the problem seems to be getting worse. The latest statistics, from 2014, tell us the rate of suicides in jails was the highest it’s been since at least 2000… The only real conspiracy here is the ageless one between and among prison guards and jail officials who too often treat at-risk inmates with callous disregard and deliberate indifference.”
Andrew Cohen, New Republic


Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

The left is disappointed that Mueller did not bolster the case for impeachment and criticizes Republicans for downplaying the threat of election interference.

“When, if ever, will there be charges for all the helpers, procurers and hangers-on in Epstein’s network of sleaze -- up to and including his longtime partner Ghislaine Maxwell… publicly accused of pimping for her wealthy, perverted ‘best friend.’ Then there’s the next level -- the U.S. attorney-turned-Cabinet secretary who gave Epstein a cushy deal and has walked away with a pat on the back from President Trump, and the Palm Beach sheriff who turned Epstein’s previous brush with justice into a joke, and all the other compromised folks in our injustice system…

“It’s not just Epstein, and it’s not this one case. It’s not even just the horrors that have been exposed in two years of the #MeToo scandals, where abuses by the world’s most powerful men in show business, media, the arts, big business and, yes, politics have been covered up if not openly tolerated for years ... centuries, really. It’s the growing awareness that the current American system has lost the capacity to hold anyone accountable in any position of power or influence… Americans are bitter, confused, and most of all angry. And they have absolutely no faith in the people who are in charge. I know I don’t.”
Will Bunch, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Regarding President Trump’s retweet of a commentator’s assertion that Bill and Hillary Clinton were behind Epstein’s death, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) stated, “This is just more recklessness… What he is doing is dangerous. He is giving life to not just conspiracy theories but really whipping people up into anger and worse against different people in this country."
Lauren Egan, NBC News

“Health care spending makes up somewhere around a fifth of the U.S. economy. It affects every American, and is a life-or-death issue for millions of them every year. And here in the United States, where we spend more on care but die younger than in comparable countries, it’s a mess. So let us know how you’d fix it in 15 seconds

“Tapper attempted to corner Warren and Sanders into a yes/no answer on whether they’d raise middle-class taxes to fund their ‘Medicare for All’ plans. Tax increases, as an exasperated Sanders noted, are a GOP talking point, but they’re also only part of the equation of the personal finances of health care. Because if, as Sanders and Warren promise, your taxes go up some but your out-of-pocket costs go down by more, you’re better off. That’s an argument worth discussing, but it’s a discussion that one can’t have a quarter of one minute at a time.”
Ryan Bort, Rolling Stone

Many argue that “despite relentless Republican attacks, the benefits provided [by the ACA] -- guaranteed insurance and coverage of pre-existing conditions -- are now seen by many as a benefit to which they're entitled. Moving to Medicare for those who want it is a logical next step toward a single-payer option, one that maintains choice for millions of Americans… 56% of Americans say they support full Medicare for All… [but] when voters are presented with the full details of the Sanders and Warren plans, support falls dramatically… I believe it's critical for Democrats to maintain their advantage on health care going into 2020, and the best way to do that is to reject Medicare for All and embrace Medicare for those who want it.”
Joe Lockhart, CNN

“Beijing is [also] looking to a seemingly unlikely place for support: Europe. In recent days, Chinese ambassadors across the continent have gone on the offensive to rally Europe behind Hong Kong’s government and against the protestors. As part of their campaign to promote Beijing’s line, China’s ambassadors are publishing op-eds in local papers and publicly criticizing European leaders for failing to denounce what they are trying to frame as violent protests…

“While Washington has been antagonistic, Beijing has been careful to strike all the right chords… [But] to uphold their shared values, both the United States and Europe need to collectively push back against China’s unfair trade and investment practices, its blatant human rights abuses, and the anti-democratic norms and practices it seeks to spread… Europe must realize where its long-term interests lie, and not let [the Trump] administration or the allure of economic gains prevent the right choice. The health of liberal democracy will depend on it.”
Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Rachel Rizzo, Politico

Regarding the Cadillac tax, “high-premium employer-based plans raise the cost of health care for everyone by encouraging the overconsumption of expensive services. This means that even Medicare and Medicaid face higher prices. Quite aside from its benefits for the health-care market, the Cadillac tax would also have the effect of expanding the tax base and making the tax code more efficient. It would raise revenues by about $15 billion a year… Rather than killing or delaying the Cadillac tax, Democrats should be trying to make it operational. The tax would raise revenue, lower costs, increase the efficiency of the tax code and give the Obamacare individual market its best chance at success.”
Karl W. Smith, Bloomberg

“The two issues with which he is most often associated, support for a balanced budget and opposition to free trade, put him at odds with both of our major political parties. An old-fashioned, soft-spoken Southerner, he nevertheless held views on so-called ‘social issues’ that would be to the left of the mainstream of the Republican Party, both then and now. He was a fervent supporter of the Vietnam POW/MIA movement in the late '80s and early '90s, but he was not in any sense a hawk. Never mind 2003. Perot opposed the first war in Iraq in 1990… Perot's death should be mourned by all Americans who regret the fact that it is no longer possible to make reasoned, non-ideological arguments about questions of public import, and by the devolution of our political life into mindless partisan squabbling.”
Matthew Walther, The Week

From the Right

The right criticizes Sanders and Warren for adopting far-left policies, and praises Marianne Williamson’s performance.

From the Right

Assembling an innocent explanation of Epstein’s death requires assuming a staggering amount of incompetenceon the part of MCC Manhattan staff. Despite a near-miss on July 30, they would have had to innocently give their most infamous and high-profile criminal defendant the means and opportunity to kill himself, and in doing so, utterly fail at their most basic responsibilities… Many people had a powerful motive to see Epstein dead. It’s perfectly reasonable to think the man might have been murdered.”
Will Chamberlain, Human Events

“It’s still possible that Epstein reallydid commit suicide today. After all, he’d attempted it once before, and it appeared that the power of his money and connections had finally failed him… His money could help him cope in federal prison, but only to a small extent. That huge fall in lifestyle certainly would lead to some despair. On the other hand, that despair seems at least a little premature… He still had the funds to hire a fleet of the country’s best attorneys to extricate him from his troubles and options still left on the table…

“Among those options would be to start naming names of the men who accompanied Epstein on his sexual exploitation of underaged girls. Prosecutors might have been interested enough in that information to trade it off for a little window of freedom for Epstein at the end of his eventual incarceration. That’s why Epstein’s suicide seems so very suspicious at this point — because of that very powerful card Epstein still had left to play against some very powerful men.”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

“We will see a myopic focus on guns in the coming days, tied to a broader discussion of America’s ‘mass shooting problem.’ This will be a mistake — not because America does not have such a problem, but because to focus on limiting a certain tool in a country with half a billion of those tools in circulation and a constitutional provision protecting their ownership is to set oneself up for guaranteed failure…

“[Instead] the president should work with Congress to devote more resources to infiltrating, tracking, and foiling nascent plots… he should instruct the federal government to initiate an information campaign against white-supremacist violence in much the same way as it has conducted crusades against drunk driving, human trafficking, and domestic violence. Just as the government must not react to these incidents by abridging the Second Amendment or the Fourth Amendment, obviously the First Amendment’s crucial protections must also remain intact. But where action is consistent with the law — there is no prohibition on monitoring hotbeds of radicalism, nor against punishing those who plan or incite violence — it must be vigorously taken.”
The Editors, National Review

“Astonishingly, during our trade war, President Trump has been silent about Chinese human rights and political abuses…  Our media have reported some of the broad strokes of the protests and Chinese response, but hardly anything in depth. Too busy telling us about the damage done to U.S. soybean interests by the trade war to notice the economic and political meltdown happening in Asia? I’m not convinced that China can impose itself on Hong Kong if somewhere between 1 to 2 million people concentrated there remain determined not to cowed by them. At least not without doing incalculable harm to their economy. But can we at least get better reporting on this incredible conflict?”
Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review

Regarding the decision to label China a currency manipulator, “traders may fear the tiny devaluation signals trade conflict spreading to currency. [But] this is highly unlikely, because a steep devaluation would be destabilizing for China… If an extended depreciation is encouraged or permitted, RMB holders can only guess what level the government truly wants. Last time around — four years ago — they chose large-scale capital flight rather than trusting the People’s Bank. China’s economy is slower, older, and more indebted than back then. Most importantly, it no longer has the foreign exchange to afford a repeat of 2015–6. That’s why the People’s Bank is likely to continue to defend the RMB near 7 to the dollar.”
Derek M. Scissors, The National Interest

“Trump should be overjoyed. Tariffs are taxes paid by Americans on the things Americans buy. The only way China can be paying any of them is if something else, something extra, then happens — like the yuan dropping. This makes all imports into China more expensive for Chinese citizens. That's China paying for Trump's tariffs when the yuan falls. Without this happening, only Americans pay. With the yuan dropping, China pays as well. This is the claim Trump has been making all along, that China's really paying those trade taxes — now they are… Imposing significant export tariffs on a country should mean the value of that currency falls. This is what is happening. Why is Trump complaining about it?
Tim Worstall, Washington Examiner

“NBC and MSNBC embraced Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the first debate of Democratic presidential candidates Wednesday night, treating her like the star of the show. The debate led off with Warren, who had a huge popularity advantage from the start… NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie started it off sounding more like Warren’s press secretary. ‘You have many plans – free college, free child care, government health care, cancelation of student debt, new taxes, new regulations, the breakup of major corporations,’ Guthrie said, before teeing up an economy question. Guthrie even used Warren’s plan to break up tech companies as the foundation for a question for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey… the round-robin final comments also ended with Warren, as Maddow asked her for the ‘final, final statement.’ That let NBC bookend the entire debate with Warren and Warren.”
Dan Gainor, Fox News

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

Outside Hong Kong, the silence Is deafening… Some protesters in Hong Kong today are adopting the British Union Jack flag, the American flag and the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ as symbols, yet that doesn’t seem to have stirred our collective imaginations… Americans are preoccupied with fighting each other over political correctness, gun violence, Trump and the Democratic candidates for president. To be sure, those issues deserve plenty of attention. But they are soaking up far too much emotional energy, distracting attention from the all-important struggles for liberty around the world…

“It’s 2019, and the land of the American Revolution, a country whose presidents gave stirring speeches about liberty and freedom in Berlin during the Cold War, remains in a complacent slumber. It really is time to Make America Great Again — if only we could remember what that means.”
Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg

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