Epstein and the Public Loss of Faith

The death of Jeffrey Epstein in the MCC federal jail has touched off no end of speculation. While the medical examiner’s conclusion indicating it was suicide has been made public, the report itself has not been released. Many don’t believe it. In many ways Epstein’s death reminds me of Sherlock Holmes’s mystery “Adventure in a Sealed Room” where a trained monkey was the culprit after lots of clues were sifted through. An online friend “Rocco,” a prison guard, agrees with me. He’s seen too much of this himself and knows how quickly and easily prisoners have killed themselves in locked rooms even when -- as is not the case here -- guards were making their assigned rounds.

At heart I believe there was a great chance of a long, ugly trial during which Epstein would not be released out on bail and a lifetime sentence would follow. A lifetime in which he would be miserable and full of apprehension. He had flown close to the stars in years of great luxury and pleasure and that was all going to go away. Even if he beat the rap, his associates had finally pulled away from him, and there is no likelihood the glitterati would ever welcome him back or that the money he somehow amassed would continue to flow his way.

It’s true after SpyGate and its unraveling people have a heightened suspicion of law-enforcement institutions. Crime series on TV and movies have given viewers a distorted view, in my opinion, of how criminal law works and how quickly bad actors can be brought to justice. And then there is a lost prospect of a trial sure to appeal to prurient interests and the anticipation that whichever political figure you most hate will be exposed. In the absence of more evidence, I support the suicide finding of the medical examiner.

I understand that his lawyers -- or some of them -- are challenging the medical examiner’s report and wish to interview jail personnel. My hunch is that they are doing this not to challenge the autopsy. They engaged Dr. Michael Baden as an observer for the autopsy but placed him under a gag order. I think they are laying the groundwork for a wrongful death claim, based on negligence by the jailers

Maybe it’s a good thing that people are less credulous about press accounts and government conduct than they were decades ago. On the other hand, if we automatically discount all official proceedings, why are we different than any Third-world state where mobs act on the most outlandish of rumors?

While fascination with Epstein garnered media attention, other developments seem to me to be of far greater significance. The continuing protests in Hong Kong, for one. Michael Yon, the independent journalist who has done so much wonderful war reporting, is on the scene, daily providing live feeds from there on his Facebook account. It’s worth signing up to Facebook only to go to his page and see what is happening. His feeds are a chronicle of smart, civilized protesters using high tech to communicate with each other, foil surveillance monitoring and mass and remass at various locations like streams of water. Most observers think China’s Xi will crush them soon, but he hasn’t yet, though China has not been shy about letting photographers see the massed troop-carrying transports in a stadium on the outskirts, or even the troops training with large specially designed forks to capture protesters. Why? Xi expects to quell this uprising without having to actually use such force.

In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Mark Thiessen (A fellow at AEI and a former speechwriter for President G.W. Bush and Secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld) joins me in a minority view of the strength (or rather, lack of it) of China’s hand.  Both the techniques used by the protesters and President Trump’s actions make this different than the Tiananmen protests inside China that were so brutally crushed: 

The situation China faces in Hong Kong is very different from the one in Tiananmen Square three decades ago. At Tiananmen, the protesters were gathered in a large public square like sitting ducks where they could be easily mowed down. In Hong Kong, protest tactics have been adopted specifically to avoid another Tiananmen. The protesters are “like water” flowing through a huge and crowded city. Demonstrations are organized on the fly, via social media, and take place in multiple locations simultaneously. If China cracks down in one place, the protesters can disperse and start again in a different location. Moreover, the Hong Kong protests are leaderless, which means there is no cadre of organizers who can be rounded up to break up the movement. If China arrests one group of leaders, others will simply rise up to take their places.

In Tiananmen, the clearing operation was conducted in the dark of night and out of sight of the media. A Hong Kong intervention would take place in the full glare of the international press corps and under the scrutiny of millions of cellphone cameras that would record every atrocity for the world to see. And the operation could last for months or even years.

In Hong Kong, the terrain favors the defenders. The city is a maze of winding, narrow streets, many on hills, which would be extremely difficult for large military vehicles to navigate. If the military moved in, it would face determined resistance. China wants to break popular support for the protests, but a crackdown would have the opposite effect...

The one advantage China now enjoys compared with 30 years ago is technology. On the mainland, the regime is constructing an Orwellian surveillance state, with cameras and facial-recognition technology to track its citizens. The extent to which Beijing has wired Hong Kong is unknown, but protesters can still use technology to their advantage, communicating via encrypted messaging apps and social media. Shutting down their means of communication would also cripple Hong Kong’s financial sector, which depends on the free flow of information.

Finally, a military intervention would mean the end of Hong Kong, and that is something Beijing cannot afford. The mainland economy is slowing and might even be contracting. Trump is hammering China with tariffs. If President Xi Jinping cracks down, he will cause capital and talent to flee the city, which could kill the golden goose. 

Thiessen goes on to note that the President -- if there is a brutal crackdown -- can revoke the Hong Kong Policy Act in which the U.S. gives Hong Kong more favorable trade treatment than we do China. This is because Hong Kong is considered a distinct entity. Although that is somewhat of a fiction, it’s not entirely false, but a brutal crackdown by China would evaporate any distinction. Moreover, he observes, there are about 1,400 U.S. businesses operating in Hong Kong.  It’s not clear how many would remain if Xi impatiently takes full control. Certainly a great deal of capital flight would take place, and by all accounts, China is having a substantial downturn. (It even faces a food shortage and has set up a strategic pork reserve as a swine fever epidemic is devastating the pig farms on which it depends for much of its meat supply.) He also notes that such a brutal intervention by China would end hopes of any trade deal, massively increase tariffs and further increase economic instability, leading to protests on the mainland itself.

“A military operation” he concludes,  “even if it succeeded, would be Pyrrhic victory.

China does not have the upper hand in this standoff; Trump does. He should use his leverage to save Hong Kong.”

It’s curious that our universities are chocked to the brim with brainwashed students and fourth-rate professors and administrators who hate the U.S. and its Constitution while in Hong Kong people their age are risking their lives for freedom, waving American flags, and wishing they had a Second Amendment right to defend themselves against brutal tyranny.

As curious as that is the fact that our press, which should by now have lost all credibility, continues to destroy itself with propagandizing foolishness to assist the failing Democrats.  Take the gaslighters at the New York Times, where this week a leaked transcript of its editor and his staff shows that despite having earned two Pulitzer prizes for promoting the Russian Collusion hoax, the paper is throwing in the towel on that one and is now promoting a new fairy tale, that the President is a “racist.”

New York Times chief outlines coverage shift: From Trump-Russia to Trump racism

Baquet used the gentlest terms possible -- "the story changed" -- but the fact is, the conspiracy-coordination allegation the Times had devoted itself to pursuing turned out to be false. Beyond that, Democrats on Capitol Hill struggled to press an obstruction case against the president. The Trump-Russia hole came up dry.

Now, Baquet continued, "I think that we've got to change." The Times must "write more deeply about the country, race, and other divisions."

"I mean, the vision for coverage for the next two years is what I talked about earlier: How do we cover a guy who makes these kinds of remarks?" Baquet said. "How do we cover the world's reaction to him? How do we do that while continuing to cover his policies? How do we cover America, that's become so divided by Donald Trump?" [snip] Baquet vowed a transition to a new "vision" for the paper for the next two years. "How do we grapple with all the stuff you all are talking about?" he said to the staffer. "How do we write about race in a thoughtful way, something we haven't done in a large way in a long time? That, to me, is the vision for coverage. You all are going to have to help us shape that vision. But I think that's what we're going to have to do for the rest of the next two years."

What impels this shift? The only collusion seems to have been between the DoJ, FBI, Hillary and foreign forces, especially former Ukrainian leaders and certain elements of Western intelligence services. Add to that the increasing public knowledge of the corrupt effort by these U.S. law enforcement agencies to schlep the sick, corrupt Hillary over the finish line and, failing that, to handcuff the President. The shift in narrative probably will fall flat as well. The President as racist isn’t selling very well, according to pollster Zogby.  

Zogby: ‘Poor performances’ of Democrats boost Trump’s approval to 51%, up with blacks and Hispanics

His bottom line in his analysis:

  • Trump's job approval rating is tied for the highest we have on record.
  • His numbers are being driven by record low unemployment and an inflated stock market, but a potential recession looms.
  • Besides a good economy, Trump's good approval rating is being driven by a surge in popularity among voters living in the South and Central regions, independents, millennials, suburban men, urban men, and older voters. Trump's approval rating has improved with minorities: 28% of African Americans and 49% of Hispanics at least somewhat approve of the president. Both are very good numbers, historically, for Trump.
  • Trump's support has spiked among consumers, mainly NASCAR fans and weekly Walmart and Amazon shoppers. A solid majority of each group gives the president a positive job rating.
  • Trump has recently seen a spike in support among large and small city voters -- more than half of each group approves of the president. Trump is also polling well among urban women, but has seen his support from suburban women take a beating.
  • Religious voters are key to Trump winning in 2020. They make up a big part of the electorate and have a big presence in battleground states. Right now the president is polling very well with Catholics, Protestants, and evangelicals.

I think the “racist” tag will be hard to establish as was the Trump as an anti-Semite, but then I thought the Russian collusion story was also incredible poppycock. What do I know that the geniuses at the NYT do not? 

Correction: Sherlock Holmes story title corrected

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