Epstein Death Leads To Legitimate Questions And Baseless Conspiracy Theories

Jeffrey Epstein's death by suicide has led to many legitimate questions that should be investigated. It has also led to the rise of a number of baseless conspiracy theories.

Within minutes after it was announced that billionaire financier, and accused and convicted pedophile, had committed suicide in his jail cell, social media was awash in conspiracy theories and questions about the circumstances of his death. On some level, of course, this is understandable given the circumstances of Epstein’s death. Long before he was arrested earlier in the summer, there had been conspiracy theories circulating about connections between Epstein and countless numbers of powerful and well-known people ranging from former President Clinton and President Trump, Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, and even Prince Andrew, eighth in the line of succession to the British throne. In addition to those conspiracy theories, though, there are also legitimate questions that are already leading to investigations:

Jeffrey Epstein, the financier who was long dogged by accusations of sexual abuse of girls and who was able to cultivate an array of high-profile friends despite his lurid lifestyle, killed himself in his Manhattan jail cell, officials said on Saturday.

Mr. Epstein’s death quickly reverberated from New York to Washington to Florida, spurring federal inquiries into why he was not being more closely monitored and angering his accusers, who said they had hoped to have his crimes aired in open court.

Mr. Epstein hanged himself, and was found at around 6:30 a.m. Saturday at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, officials said.

Last month, after being denied bail on federal sex trafficking charges, Mr. Epstein was found unconscious in his jail cell with marks on his neck. Prison officials had been investigating the incident as a possible suicide attempt.

Mr. Epstein was placed on suicide watch after the incident on July 23 and received a daily psychiatric evaluation, according to a person familiar with his detention. He was removed from suicide watch on July 29 and returned to the special housing unit, a segregated area of the prison with extra security, this person said.

The authorities did not immediately explain why he was taken off suicide watch. The F.B.I. said it was investigating, and Attorney General William P. Barr said in a statement that a special inquiry would be opened into what happened.

“I was appalled to learn that Jeffrey Epstein was found dead early this morning from an apparent suicide while in federal custody,” Mr. Barr said. “Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered.”

In addition to the F.B.I., the Inspector General, the Justice Department’s internal watchdog, will open an investigation into Mr. Epstein’s death, Mr. Barr said. The Metropolitan Correctional Center is run by the federal Bureau of Prisons.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan last month charged Mr. Epstein, 66, with sex trafficking of girls as young as 14 and sex trafficking conspiracy. The indictment renewed attention on how Mr. Epstein — who had opulent homes, a private jet and access to elite circles — had escaped severe punishment in an earlier investigation of sexual abuse more than a decade ago in Florida.

He had avoided federal criminal charges in 2008 after prosecutors brokered a widely criticized deal that allowed him to plead guilty to state charges of solicitation of prostitution from a minor and serve 13 months in jail. Even while in custody, Mr. Epstein was able to leave the jail for 12 hours a day, six days a week, to work at his office in Florida.

The new federal indictment also focused scrutiny on luminaries in government, politics, business, academia, science and fashion with whom Mr. Epstein had associated over the years, including Donald J. Trump, Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew of Britain and the retail billionaire Leslie H. Wexner.

Mr. Epstein’s defense team — the lawyers Reid Weingarten, Marty Weinberg and Michael Miller — declined to comment on the circumstances of death. “We are enormously sorry to learn of today’s news. No one should die in jail,” they said in a statement.

A fourth member of Mr. Epstein’s legal team, Marc Fernich, blamed a host of actors — from prosecutors to victims’ lawyers to the media — for bearing “some responsibility for this calamity.”

Mr. Epstein’s suicide derailed a prosecution that his accusers had hoped would finally show how he had been allowed to commit what they said was a string of depraved crimes for so many years — and what role his wealth, privilege and connections played.

Jennifer Araoz, who said she had been raped by Mr. Epstein after being recruited into his circle in 2001 outside her Manhattan high school, said she was angry that he would not have to face his accusers in court.

“We have to live with the scars of his actions for the rest of our lives, while he will never face the consequences of the crimes he committed — the pain and trauma he caused so many people,” Ms. Araoz said. She said she hoped investigators would pursue charges against people who had aided and protected Mr. Epstein.

The United States attorney in Manhattan, Geoffrey S. Berman, said in a statement that the investigation into Mr. Epstein’s misconduct would continue, pointing specifically to the conspiracy charge, which suggested Mr. Epstein was assisted by others who helped facilitate his illegal acts.

“Today’s events are disturbing, and we are deeply aware of their potential to present yet another hurdle to giving Epstein’s many victims their day in court,” Mr. Berman said.

Of all the questions surrounding Epstein’s death, the one that comes to the fore is why he wasn’t on suicide watch:

Like all federal prisons, the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan has a suicide prevention program designed for inmates who are at risk of taking their own lives.

After an apparent attempt three weeks ago, Jeffrey Epstein — the financier who was at the facility awaiting trial on charges he sexually abused dozens of girls — was placed on suicide watch and received daily psychiatric evaluations, a person familiar with his detention said.

But just six days later, on July 29, Mr. Epstein, 66, was taken off the watch for reasons that remained unclear on Saturday, the person said. Twelve days after that, he hanged himself. Guards making their morning rounds discovered his body at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, the Bureau of Prisons said.

Mr. Epstein’s suicide, coming shortly after prison officials in Manhattan deemed he was no longer at risk of taking his own life, raises questions about the steps prison officials took to keep him alive and ensure he would face his accusers in court.

The Justice Department immediately faced a backlash from elected officials and the public. Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska on the Senate’s Judiciary committee, said in a letter to the Justice Department that it was inexcusable that Mr. Epstein had not been under a 24-hour watch. “These victims deserved to face their serial abuser in court,” he wrote.

Attorney General William P. Barr said in a statement that he “was appalled to learn” about Mr. Epstein’s death in federal custody, and had asked the inspector general for the Justice Department to open an investigation into how it happened.

“Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered,” he said. “In addition to the F.B.I.’s investigation, I have consulted with the Inspector General, who is opening an investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Epstein’s death.”

(…)

One federal prison official with knowledge of the incident confirmed Mr. Epstein had been taken off suicide watch recently and was being held alone in a cell in a special housing unit. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of being fired, said guards found Mr. Epstein in an otherwise empty cell during morning rounds. He had hanged himself and he appeared to be dead.

It would have been extremely difficult for Mr. Epstein to harm himself had he still been on suicide watch, a second prison official said, also speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of dismissal.

Inmates on suicide watch are generally placed in a special observation cell, surrounded with windows, with a bolted down bed and no bedclothes, the official said. A correction officer — or sometimes a fellow inmate trained to be a “suicide companion” — is typically assigned to sit in an adjacent office and monitor the inmate constantly.

Robert Gangi, an expert on prisons and the former executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, said guards also generally take shoelaces and belts away from people on suicide watch. “It’s virtually impossible to kill yourself,” Mr. Gangi said.

Inmates can only be removed from the watch when the program coordinator, who is generally the chief psychologist at the facility, deems they are no longer at imminent risk for suicide, according a 2007 Bureau of Prison document outlining suicide prevention policies. The inmates cannot be removed from the watch without a face-to-face psychological evaluation.

To take an inmate off suicide watch, a “post-watch report” needs to be completed, which includes an analysis of how the inmate’s circumstances have changed and why that merits removal from the watch, the document said.

Under Bureau of Prison regulations, the government’s jails and prisons must have one or more rooms designed for housing an inmate on suicide watch, and the rooms must allow staff members to control the inmate without compromising their ability to observe and protect him. Every prison facility is required to have a suicide prevention program.

Suicide prevention cells must provide an “unobstructed view of the inmate” and “may not have fixtures or architectural features that would easily allow self-injury,” according to a Bureau of Prisons policy.

The prison or jail staff members are supposed to operate in shifts to keep the inmate under constant observation and to keep a log of the person’s behavior, according to federal regulations. The inmate is only supposed to be removed from the watch when he or she “is no longer at imminent risk for suicide,” the regulations say.

These circumstances, and Epstein’s subsequent suicide less than two weeks after being taken off suicide watch, certainly raise questions that need to be investigated. Suicides in jail are not uncommon, of course, and suicide risk is reportedly quite high among people who are accused of crimes such as those that Jeffrey Epstein was accused of, and this is especially true in situations like the one Epstein was faced with where it was likely that he was going to spend the rest of his life in prison, most of it in solitary confinement due to the risk that someone of his prominence and history would be subject to violence from fellow inmates. That being said, the fact that he was previously on suicide watch and removed from that status ten days ago raises a question about whether or not the proper procedures were followed in Epstein’s case. If there is evidence that proper procedures were not followed then the persons responsible for that should be held responsible. It’s also proper for these matters to be investigated by Congress as part of its general oversight rule in the operation of the Bureau of Prisons and the Justice Department.

At the same time that these legitimate questions are being raised, of course, Epstein’s death has led to the inevitable conspiracy theories:

This president’s political movement began with Trump’s disproven allegations that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, and rose to power in an election that was manipulated by a Russian propaganda campaign, leading to an administration with near-daily denunciations of well-documented journalism as “fake news.” It is not an environment conducive to giving any official utterance by an authority figure the benefit of the doubt — especially when the facts are authentically murky, as they are so far in the Epstein death.

The furious reaction from mainstream public officials as well as a swelling chorus of prominent voices on social media — it wasn’t just from professional conspiracy theorists or guys at the bar — as soon as news of his death broke showed how pervasive this reaction is.

“If we were living in a paranoid fantasy universe,” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman posted on Twitter, “I would be very suspicious about the Epstein suicide, even about whether it was really suicide. And you know what? The Epstein case itself shows that we *are* kind of living in a paranoid fantasy universe.”

“A guy who had information that would have destroyed rich and powerful men’s lives ends up dead in his jail cell. How predictably….Russian,” tweeted MSNBC host Joe Scarborough.

“Something stinks to high heaven,” agreed former Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) “How does someone on suicide watch hang himself with no intervention? Impossible. Unless….”

Actually, Epstein had been on suicide watch after an earlier incident on July 23, but was no longer.

Why not is one of the “serious questions that must be answered,” according to a statement from William Barr, who said he was appalled to learn of the death at a facility overseen by his Justice Department and was seeking an investigation.

But it was immediately clear that many people would not regard an inquiry overseen by Barr as credible. His handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the president and Russian election interference left many people, including most congressional Democrats, convinced he see his role not as defending rule of law, or the executive branch broadly, but President Donald Trump’s personal interests.

“AG lied to us about the Mueller report in order to protect his boss, Trump. He was in charge of Epstein’s care. And we’re just supposed to trust him on this as news breaks that Mar-a-Lago was a site for trafficking,” wrote Neera Tanden, head of the liberal Center for American Progress, on Twitter.

“We have to ask who stood to gain from his permanent silence,” said Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Tribe. “Who could he have incriminated in an effort to win favorable treatment from the Trump Justice Department?” He demanded that Barr recuse himself from “overseeing an inquiry that cuts this close to the bone.”

The reaction Saturday, including from people in prominent positions, was filled with frequently coarse innuendo about both men, with reactions split on familiar partisan lines. Trump himself Saturday evening was retweeting lurid Twitter posts asserting with no evidence a Clinton conspiracy connection to Epstein’s death, including an item from comedian Terrence K. Williams saying, “#Jeffrey Epstein had information on Bill Clinton & now he’s dead I see #TrumpBodyCount trending but we know who did this.”

Lynne Patton, a Trump appointee to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, posted on Instagram a picture of Epstein with a caption saying he’d been “Hillary’d!! P.S. Let me know when I’m supposed to feel badly about this.” Her post also invoked former Clinton White House lawyer Vincent Foster, who committed suicide in 1993, spawning years of official investigation and a generation of debunked conspiracy theories.

Even the President of the United States got in on the conspiracy-mongering:

President Trump used Twitter on Saturday to promote unfounded conspiracy theories about how Jeffrey Epstein, the financier accused of sex trafficking, died in a federal prison, even as the administration faced questions about why Mr. Epstein had not been more closely monitored.

For years Mr. Trump has brashly — and baselessly — promoted suspicion as fact and peddled secret plots by powerful interests as a way to broadcast his own version of reality. Those include the lie that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States and that millions of votes were illegally cast for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

Hours after Mr. Epstein was found to have hanged himself in his Manhattan jail cell, Mr. Trump retweeted a post from the comedian Terrence Williams linking the Clintons to the death. Mr. Epstein “had information on Bill Clinton & now he’s dead,” wrote Mr. Williams, a Trump supporter. In an accompanying two-minute video, Mr. Williams noted that “for some odd reason, people that have information on the Clintons end up dead.”

There is no evidence to substantiate the claim, which derives from groundless speculation on the far right, dating to Mr. Clinton’s early days as president, that multiple deaths can be traced to the Clintons and explained by their supposed efforts to cover up wrongdoing.

Responding to Mr. Trump’s retweets, a spokesman for Mr. Clintonmockingly wrote, “Ridiculous, and of course not true — and Donald Trump knows it.” The spokesman, Angel Ureña, added, “Has he triggered the 25th Amendment yet?” The 25th Amendment contains a provision allowing for the removal of a president if he is unable to perform his duties, potentially in the event of mental instability.

Posting from his luxury golf club in Bedminster, N.J., Mr. Trump also shared another tweet, from an unverified account, which claimed that recently unsealed documents involving accusations of Mr. Epstein’s abuse had revealed that Mr. Clinton “took private trips to Jeffrey Epstein’s ‘pedophilia island.'”

A spokesman for Mr. Clinton has denied that Mr. Clinton traveled to Mr. Epstein’s private island in the Virgin Islands. The documentsunsealed Friday also include an acknowledgment from one of Mr. Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Giuffre, that an earlier claim she made about Mr. Clinton visiting Mr. Epstein in the Caribbean was untrue.

The pair of retweets come on a day when Mr. Trump expressed outrage on Twitter over what he called “dishonest” and “inaccurate” coverage of his presidency by the news media, including The New York Times. Mr. Trump insisted that reports that several survivors of the mass shooting in El Paso last weekend had refused to see him when he visited their hospital on Wednesday were false, but provided no evidence.

Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Clinton had been friendly with Mr. Epstein but broke ties with him many years ago. In a July statement, Mr. Ureña, Mr. Clinton’s spokesman, said that the former president had taken several trips with Mr. Epstein on his private plane in 2002 and 2003 but that the men had not spoken in more than a decade. Mr. Clinton “knows nothing about the terrible crimes” of which Mr. Epstein has been accused and, in one case, had been sentenced, the statement said.

Even before Mr. Trump weighed in on the subject, Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said on Twitter that while scrutiny of Mr. Epstein’s death was warranted, “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.”

Earlier Saturday, one of the president’s senior appointees at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Lynne Patton, posted a headline about Mr. Epstein’s death on Instagram, perpetuating a debunked right-wing narrative. Including the comment, “Hillary’d!!” she also referred to Vincent Foster, the Clinton White House counsel who died by suicide in 1994 — a crucial episode in the unfounded theory tying the Clintons to allegedly suspicious deaths.

Adding to the extraordinary nature of Mr. Trump’s retweets was the fact that Mr. Clinton is a former president. American presidents have traditionally treated their predecessors and successors with pronounced respect, even when they are from different parties or ran bitter campaigns against one another. But after defeating Mrs. Clinton in a 2016 campaign during which he suggested he might imprison her, Mr. Trump has repeatedly ridiculed and taunted both Clintons.

This isn’t the first time that President Trump has resorted to spreading conspiracy theories, of course, Throughout the time that former Special Counsel Robert Mueller was investigating Russian interference in the election and potential collusion between Russian officials and the Trump campaign, he was alleging that the entire investigation was a “Deep State” conspiracy against him to undermine his Presidency. He has also suggested, without evidence, that it was Hillary Clinton and her campaign that colluded with the Russians to undermine him rather than the other way around. Additionally, one of his biggest supporters and closest advisers, Fox News host Sean Hannity, spent the better part of a year pushing the so-called “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory that ended up getting someone killed while also dragging the name of Clinton campaign worker Seth Rich through the mud as part of yet another conspiracy theory.

Conspiracy theories have been part of American history since the founding, of course, but thanks to the Internet and a President who spends more time on Twitter than he does doing his job we’re in an era where people repeat these baseless theories as if they are gospel truth. Now that they have a President playing the same game they do, it’s only likely to get worse.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Donald Trump, Law and the Courts, Politicians, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Modulo Myself says:

    This is like the Dallas PD stopping Ruby but then two days another strip club owner walks up and shoots Oswald in the exact same way. It doesn’t really add up. You have to be a special kind of incompetent to be in charge and not grasp how badly your career will go if you let the famous pedophile commit suicide after having been on suicide watch. Whoever let this happen is going to be the subject of conspiracy theories the rest of their lives. How much money did they get? What did somebody have on them? Etc. There’s no getting around that.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    I’ll just take this opportunity to leap aboard a favorite hobby horse: we need to teach philosophy in schools, starting at a young age. I don’t mean parsing Hegel with pre-schoolers. I mean basic intellectual tools for making sense out of the firehose of data we have available.

    I don’t think this is some fanciful irrelevancy. Americans incapable of thinking are a huge problem for this country. Climate change deniers = people unable to think. Anti-vaxxers = people unable to think. Racists = people unable to think. Gun nuts = people unable to think. Every day People Unable To Think (PUTTses) come here and regurgitate nonsense a clever ten year-old would be able to rebut. And when challenged they’ve got nothin’ but replaying the same script over and over and over again.

    The gateway drug for PUTTses is of course religion. Religion subverts reason early on. It’s like malware that turns off a computer’s defenses. If you can believe in a magic sky daddy you can believe in anything. There’s a reason why the most devoted Trumpaloons are white evangelicals, the dumbest of religious groups.

    We cannot prosper if we are forever held back by voters who simply cannot form a coherent belief let alone defend it. We’re becoming a nation of flat-earthers.

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  3. SKI says:

    I can’t speak to correctional facilities but in clinical settings, you can’t keep someone on suicide watch indefinitely – it in itself is mentally destabilizing. No privacy, no “regular” clothing, no darkness, no toileting without permission and observation. Protocols typically expand the time interval of observation by 15 minutes every day and try to return some semblance of normalcy.

    People who are experienced manipulators and motivated to kill themselves will be able to.

  4. Stormy Dragon says:

    I agree with Popehat’s take.

  5. Kit says:

    @michael reynolds:

    we need to teach philosophy in schools, starting at a young age

    Wasn’t the fostering of critical thinking supposed to be what separated the American educational system from the rest of the world? We’ve been patting ourselves on the back about that ever since I can remember.

  6. Barry says:

    @Modulo Myself: “You have to be a special kind of incompetent to be in charge and not grasp how badly your career will go if you let the famous pedophile commit suicide after having been on suicide watch.”

    On a counterpoint, how many police murders have been filmed, with no repercussions on the officers involved?

    Do we have a case where somebody (let’s call them ‘Epstein’) was nailed red-handed for pedophilia and trafficking, and quite deliberately let off of the hook?

  7. michael reynolds says:

    @SKI:
    Prison is not a mental institution, not even a bad mental institution.

    American jails and prisons could not possibly care less about the mental health of prisoners. Anyone who has ever been to jail will tell you they’re full of genuinely mentally ill people receiving zero treatment. Guys who scream at phantasms all day. Guys so paranoid they think everyone they see is an alien lizard. We put teenagers in with rapists and the guards watch and laugh as some kid is driven mad. Guards take mentally ill prisoners and beat them, using clubs and fists to ‘treat’ mental illness. We are a country that puts people in 8×10 poured concrete boxes for 22 1/2 hours a day, 7 days a week, for fifty years. We literally, deliberately, push prisoners into madness.

    When it comes to treatment of prisoners, the United States is a very bad country.

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  8. Liberal Capitalist says:

    I had fun with this in the other thread…

    Trump is relieved that Epstein is dead, but takes the chance to point blame elsewhere.

    Why? Because Epstein was a VERY close friend. and he needs to say: “Look!!! Squirrel!!! There!!! Way WAY over there!!! Certainly NOT here!!!!”

    Please view: https://twitter.com/ItsNathanGeorge/status/1160555826790240256/photo/1

    Very close friend. Very close indeed.

    Focusing on the details of a jail call, or suicide itself: Not the real issue. he realized he was f’ed and too the easy way out.

    See? So easy to fling conspiracy.

    Confirmation Bias
    The tendency to search for or interpret information in the way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs, leading to statistical errors.

    When people would like a certain idea to be true, they end up believing it to be true. They are motivated by wishful thinking.

    Copied from one of my favorites: https://humanhow.com/en/list-of-cognitive-biases-with-examples/

  9. Teve says:

    @michael reynolds: a few years back I read a book about the birth of marketing and Madison Avenue. At one point the guy detailed some of the most successful ad campaigns in the early 20th century, and how laughably transparent they were, but they worked back then because people were so much less sophisticated about that sort of thing. We’re not so naive anymore, now we err on the side of cynicism, and for decades religion has been sinking. The fastest growing demographic in that area are the Nones, the people who aren’t affiliated with any religious tradition.

    Numbnuts aren’t new, but the numbnuts can now coordinate using technology they never had before, and that’s causing us some new problems.

  10. michael reynolds says:

    @Kit:
    It is not possible to teach critical thinking without running afoul of religion. So we don’t teach critical thinking. It’s also not possible to teach history without running afoul of super patriots and bigots. So we don’t teach history.

    In sixth grade I lived in Virginia and learned how the ‘war between the states’ was totally not about slavery. In third grade I was in school in France and learned that French history jumped straight from the Taxis of the Marne to 1960’s France and nothing of significance occurred in between. In California schools kids are required – by law – to build a papier maché mission, and that’s history, dictated by the legislature.

    For that matter, I attended science classes where Darwin never happened. In private schools all over this country kids have their heads filled with absolute claptrap about science.

    We may have classes in critical thinking or history, but both are exercises in intellectual conformity and the passive acceptance of established myths. We are an anti-intellectual country, suspicious of genuine education. It’s one of the reasons I dropped out of high school: they weren’t teaching me anything of any conceivable relevance to my life, they were just warehousing me for 8 hours a day and feeding me bullshit.

    A real educational system would have to be insulated from parents and politicians. It would have to be devoted to critical thinking in pursuit of truth. And that is most definitely not what we have. Which is how we end up with Trump.

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  11. Teve says:

    @michael reynolds:

    When it comes to treatment of prisoners, the United States is a very bad country.

    like all young douchebags, I made my share of prison rape jokes, until I realized what I was laughing about. future generations are going to look back on us tolerating that and consider us to be, on an ethical scale, somewhere south of pond scum.

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  12. Kathy says:

    The thing to do would be to appoint an independent, bipartisan commission to look into the matter.

    The likelihood of that is between zero and the Moon is made of green cheese.

  13. SKI says:

    @michael reynolds: no arguments. I’m talking about how general community hospitals’ protocols are for people on suicide watch and suggesting we can extrapolate from them to how it makes complete sense that Epstein (a) wouldn’t be kept on suicide watch for weeks and (b) how, even if he was, it would prevent suicide after the first few days.

  14. michael reynolds says:

    @Teve:
    If we’re not so naive, explain anti-vaxxers and climate change deniers? Religion hasn’t gone away, it’s just morphed into things like Veganism and Trumpism. QAnon and NVIXM flourish. Trickle down? Good guys with guns? Karma? Hot yoga? Incels? Racists and anti-semites? Misogynists? People who think banning drinking straws will save the world?

    This coincides with a massive increase in freely-available data. And yet: Americans believe in angels and don’t believe in evolution. It’s one thing for a 1930’s shitkicker in Gooberville to believe nonsense, it’s much worse to see that same level of cluelessness and credulity in 2019.

    I’m convinced that without changes from the ground up in education humans will never manage to resist the urge to follow, to obey, to accept and to poison their own minds. People are raised by sheep to be sheep.

  15. michael reynolds says:

    @Teve:
    Honestly, if I’d thought prison would be run by guards and not by gangs I’d never have jumped bail. I was guilty, I accepted society’s right to punish me. I did not accept that the punishment would be a choice between being brutalized or becoming brutal. I know myself, I know how I’d have coped and the results would have been far worse for society at large than having another fugitive waiting tables in Ocean City and calling himself Frank.

    If I’d been Norwegian or German or Dutch I’d have shrugged and thought, OK, fair enough: I deserve some time behind bars. But in this country? Hell no.

  16. Kathy says:

    About conspiracy theories, I take the same position I do on deities: show me the evidence.

    It’s true in a case like this there were those who stood to gain by Epstein’s death. but motive is not mens rea, nor is it evidence of any action or lack of action. it just points to a possible place to look.

    It’s also true what comes out fo the Trump “administration” and cabinet is suspect, likely distorted or spun, and possibly entirely false. But that doesn’t mean any other thing that’s made up, without evidence, is true. Not even if it would benefit Dennison, or Clinton, or some other rich schmoe who stood to benefit from silencing Epstein.

    Therefore, my suggestion for an independent, bipartisan commission. Which we all know won’t happen.

  17. Teve says:

    @michael reynolds: Sure there are numbnuts, and there have always been numbnuts, and there always will be numbnuts. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been positive changes. There are more irreligious people in the United States today than there ever have been. In the last 40 years the percentage of Americans who accept evolution and Global Warming have increased significantly. The long-term trend lines look good.

  18. Guarneri says:

    Doug made the only salient point on this page: what the hell were they thinking to take him off watch, and who made the decision. Notions of inability to keep people perpetually on watch are silly; you couldn’t organize and review the requisite reviews in 12 days. They ought to start with interviewing the lowest level employee with the authority to make the decision and work up. It was a decision that can only be described as bizarre, and incompetence as an excuse comes up short.

    The rest of the thread is just the usual blathering.

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  19. Guarneri says:

    Yes, the global warmers are the sane ones. Must have taken philosophy.

    Brazilian President Bozoaro:

    “It’s enough to eat a little less. You talk about environmental pollution. It’s enough to poop every other day. That will be better for the whole world,” he said.

    Heed that advice, people.

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  20. SKI says:

    @Guarneri: and your experience and qualifications to opine on this subject are?

  21. michael reynolds says:

    @SKI:
    Membership in #Cult45. He doesn’t decide what to believe, he’s told.

  22. CSK says:

    Several sources are reporting that the results of Epstein’s autopsy will be released this afternoon.

  23. Kit says:

    @michael reynolds:

    A real educational system would have to be insulated from parents and politicians. It would have to be devoted to critical thinking in pursuit of truth. And that is most definitely not what we have. Which is how we end up with Trump.

    You won’t get much disagreement for me, at least not today. But I do believe that education is not going to change anytime soon, and that our last hope is with the kids currently working their way through today’s system: either they bring about the change that previous generations, our generation, couldn’t, or the weight of our failures in education will come crashing down once and for all.

  24. Kathy says:

    @Guarneri:

    So he and Trump, and you, will now be quiet for one whole day every other day?

  25. Bill says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It’s one of the reasons I dropped out of high school: they weren’t teaching me anything of any conceivable relevance to my life, they were just warehousing me for 8 hours a day and feeding me bullshit.

    Forty years and two months since I graduated high school I still am wondering why I needed to learn what an Isosceles triangle was.

  26. Gustopher says:

    @Teve:

    a few years back I read a book about the birth of marketing and Madison Avenue. At one point the guy detailed some of the most successful ad campaigns in the early 20th century, and how laughably transparent they were, but they worked back then because people were so much less sophisticated about that sort of thing. We’re not so naive anymore, now we err on the side of cynicism, and for decades religion has been sinking.

    Advertisers and propagandists have also gotten much better at exploiting cynicism and emotions. By the time you think about something, you’ve often already made a decision, and your conscious thought is just building justifications for that decision, and will grab whatever data is there to support it — data than can well be false, and which you then start to incorporate into your world view.

    @michael reynolds says that people need to learn critical thought, but it’s worse than that — people need to learn to think at all, critical or otherwise.

    Here’s something you can do in the comfort of your own home. Next time something makes you laugh unexpectedly (let’s say your cat does a perfect pratfall), stop and try to figure out why you laughed. You’ll start constructing an explanation for why what just happened was funny, but how much of that was really on your mind before it happened? How much had entered your conscious thought? Roughly none of it. Thought comes after the action and the emotional response, to justify it.

    Propaganda and advertising is getting much better at exploiting the pre-conscious-thought processing. And cynicism isn’t a defense — it’s just a big blind spot because you think you see through it. And cynicism itself can be triggered to make you disbelieve things reported in the Lamestream Media as Fake News.

    (Bonus: If you didn’t decide to laugh when your cat did that amazing pratfall… who did?)

  27. Teve says:

    @Bill:About 6 years ago I was teaching a remedial 9th grader, trying to get her slightly above the minimum score for the grade level test, which would allow her to continue high school. At one point she shoved the book at me and said “my mama said I ain’t never going to need this shit.” I paused for a second and thought about the subject matter we were working on, then I told her, “well, if I were trying to teach you trigonometry, or maybe advanced calculus, that might be true.

    But I’m trying to teach you how to take 10% off a dress at Walmart. I’m pretty sure you’re gonna see this again.”

    🙂

  28. Gustopher says:

    @Bill:

    Forty years and two months since I graduated high school I still am wondering why I needed to learn what an Isosceles triangle was.

    Can you recognize an isosceles triangle? Maybe the isosceles triangle is less important than the ability to see things abstractly enough to understand what makes something an isosceles triangle, and how to recognize it as one.

    I don’t use trigonometry or geometry directly very often, but my entire career as a software engineer is using the thought processes taught in those classes in different contexts.

  29. Teve says:

    @Gustopher: it’s an arms race, and that’s fascinating, and metacognition can be exploited too.

    This SoulCycle business, along with a couple of companies like penzeys which market specifically based on politics, have got me thinking, if I had some large national business, would it be better to split it up into a liberal faced business and a conservative faced business, hide that under shell companies, and then market each specifically as woke and politically incorrect?

  30. Teve says:

    @Gustopher: geometry is not my favorite math when I think about what should be taught in school, there’s too much of it and too little focus on statistics and probability which is way more important in everyday life. But yeah, it’s not the content of what is an isosceles triangle or what the sine of 45° is that’s important, it’s learning to solve problems in a stepwise logical fashion, and more importantly, being confronted with situations where you’re wrong and you have to rethink things, that makes math education important.

  31. Gustopher says:

    @Teve: In the 10th grade or so, we had some standardized essay thing we had to do, and it was “describe something that you value and why you value it” or something similar. It was dumb, but required by the state.

    One of the kids said that he couldn’t think of anything, so the teacher opened a book of Shakespeare, read out a quote, and said “if you can memorize that, then when you are sent to jail and they take everything else from you — your possessions, your dignity, your freedom and your shoelaces and your belt — you will still have something they can’t take.”

    It seemed a little harsh.

  32. Teve says:

    @Gustopher: that definitely might have been a little harsh, but I taught remedial 9th grade math in Florida schools for a while, and I did have a kid one time who at the age of 13 was arrested by the FBI for bank robbery. 😀

  33. de stijl says:

    @Bill:

    Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell.

  34. Kathy says:

    @Bill:

    Forty years and two months since I graduated high school I still am wondering why I needed to learn what an Isosceles triangle was.

    The math function I’ve used most since leaving school, other than arithmetic, is the simple rule to determine relative proportions. You know, is 5 is 100% then 2 is X, so multiply 2 by 100 and divide by 5 (with a calculator) and find that 2 = 42%

    Math is of crucial importance in the practice of science and engineering. And I mean math far beyond the garden variety algebra and calculus you learn in high school. But it’s not very important for understanding science at the lay level, where things are far more descriptive and qualitative.

  35. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kit: Well, yes. And it would have been, too, except for the tendency for people who believe that their role in the world is to create replicas of themselves to decide the best route to that goal is to become teachers.

    So much of our educational progress is based on divining what the teacher believes the right answer to be that real critical thinking is… well, illusive comes to mind. Roughly 20 years ago, I signed up for a seminar on methods by which to teach and/or stimulate critical thinking offered by our local educational service district. It was canceled because I was the only teacher in roughly 12 school districts who signed up for it.

  36. de stijl says:

    @Gustopher:

    You know the Progressive ads with Flo and company? (Especially Jamie. I stan Jamie.)

    I’m fully aware that they are trying to sell me insurance, but I’m also aware that they are the most meta ads I’ve ever seen.

    They are ads about ads, critiquing them and goofing on them. There was one this spring with a focus group in a warehouse with cargo containers that played out just like a Chevy truck ad only they had Jamie say “Look! It’s a computer!” And it was stupendous. He hugged his mom’s shins.

    Have I been clear that I believe Jamie from the Flo ads is the best, most interesting media character extant? I actually really mean that no foolin.

    And the Flo ads are commentary on and critique of modern advertising tropes and techniques.

    And it backward works. I’d mostly be driven by price, but Progressive has good will with me now.

    And the cynical woman with the Princess Leia hair.

    Have I mentioned that I adore Jamie as a concept and a character? That dude needs a raise.

  37. michael reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:

    How much had entered your conscious thought?

    I’m actually acutely aware of this because of my work. I don’t know where ideas come from (most FAQ). I’m very aware that inchoate idea precedes explanation for same. And when I’m actually typing words, I’m aware that most of the time they just sort of. . . happen. It’s not like architecture, there’s no blueprint, ideas happen, words happen, I get paid. It’s like I’m marketing a product without knowing what factory made it. And it’s nerve-wracking not having some kind of ability to order it to happen. I keep worrying that one day I’ll be writing along and. . . blank. Hasn’t happened yet, but it’s unsettling.

    But in just about every other aspect of life I always know what I’m doing and why. You’re overlooking a priori analyses, IOW if on Tuesday I’ve analyzed something, (2+2=4) on Thursday I don’t need to re-think to know that 2+2=4. That knowledge is stored on my wrinkly gray hard drive.

    The problem people run into is that they reach conclusion X and never re-examine it. They’re playing Legos with super glue. That’s not how it should work. But it’s an approach reinforced by tests (in school or in life) where there’s only one right answer. Religion ditto. We have our Lego sets, the fun is not in building one thing one time, but in building then tearing it down and building something new and improved. Cathexis and decathexis, rinse and repeat.

  38. Bill says:

    @Kathy:

    The math function I’ve used most since leaving school, other than arithmetic, is the simple rule to determine relative proportions. You know, is 5 is 100% then 2 is X, so multiply 2 by 100 and divide by 5 (with a calculator) and find that 2 = 42%

    Math is of crucial importance in the practice of science and engineering. And I mean math far beyond the garden variety algebra and calculus you learn in high school. But it’s not very important for understanding science at the lay level, where things are far more descriptive and qualitative.

    I am excellent at multiplication and good at trig but could rarely get my head around geometry.

    In the 11th grade, a biology teacher of mine Mr. Wells needed the answer to something like 46 times 34. I gave him the answer in like two seconds. Then I think he asked another two digits times two digits multiplication question from me. I again provided the answer quickly. Mr. Wells went on for the rest of the class using a calculator to see how good I was at that type of math. I can still do alot of multiplication in my head but have slowed down a little with age.

    Mr Wells or ‘Uncle Danny’ as some of his students affectionately called him, is the person I’m dedicating my next ebook to plus I have a character named after him in it. I have one ebook that will be published tomorrow, then another that needs a little bit of work before being ready too. That’s the one for Mr. Wells.

    I worked for 25 years first as a Navy hospitalman and later on as a X-ray technician. Not exactly work for somebody of just average intelligence but not anything that called for a whole lot of geometry knowledge.

    My ebook writing sure don’t need any geometry knowledge. My stories feature a Mall Wizard who customers should be very wary of and usually aren’t or Alien technology that accidentally falls to earth. The machines can change anyone or anything and people get into all sorts of mischief with but there is a kicker- The machines are demonstration models that stop working after 3 days. A cat turned into a dog will be barking instead of meowing or the guy who lets himself be turned into the woman his wife has a crush for and desires to have lesbian sex with better get ready to wearing bras and dresses. for the remainder of her natural life. Non erotica stories like the latter or those involving a Triplet Mom on hospital bedrest, A figure skater training for the Olympics, Japanses gangsters, An over the hill baseball player, Mossad agents, child molestors turned into dung beetles, female golfers, or even a cannibal in New Guinea don’t require me knowing what an isosceles triangle is.

  39. Kari Q says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Apologies for bringing this back to Epstein, but Pope Hat does make good points. I’ve been toying with the idea that the answer to why he was taken off suicide watch is “we knew he’d kill himself but we figured no one would miss him.”

  40. Mister Bluster says:

    @de stijl:..I’d mostly be driven by price,..

    I’m 100% driven by price. That’s why I dropped Progessive seven years ago for Shelter and immediately reduced my premium by $150/year for the same coverage.
    Since then Shelter has instituted free road service so I cancelled my AARP Motor Club and saved another $85/year.

  41. Mister Bluster says:

    Moderators:
    I thought this was the Open Forum when I replied to @de stijl and his critique of auto insurance commercials.
    I accept any sanction you may dispense now that I have wandered so far off topic.

  42. de stijl says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    I’m not saying I would pick Progressive, but they have done really well positioning themselves as a fun, cool company.

    I buy insurance on price and features.

    But Jamie is the greatest person on my TV bar none. (I might have mentioned that before.)

  43. de stijl says:

    Moderators, please ignore @Mister Bluster.

    He’s being foolish.

  44. grumpy realist says:

    @Mister Bluster: Since we’ve all dumped our Epstein tidbits in the other thread, not that much of a problem. Right now we’re doing the equivalent of sitting on the street corner, twiddling our thumbs, and waiting to see what comes along. About the only mildly interesting Epstein related article I ran across was a comment by the journalist down in Florida that there’s still a lot of documentation which is going to come out.

    Otherwise it’s back to Kanji for me….JLPT N1 grumble grumble….

  45. de stijl says:

    My favorite part of Morrowind (actually The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind) is when an Argonian(think lizard person) slave says to another slave:

    “Master was right to discipline us.
    We were foolish.”

    It is so bizarre and so unexpected and you hear it as background conversation in a dark cave in south Vvardenfell.

  46. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    I might be wrong. Were they Khajiit (think cat person) or Argonian? Not sure.

  47. Mister Bluster says:

    @de stijl:..Moderators, please ignore @Mister Bluster. He’s being foolish.

    Ever since I was scolded on this thread a week ago. And the reprimand garnered 9! (count ’em) up votes I have attempted to walk the line.
    I appreciate that the moderators have better things to do.

  48. de stijl says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    I hope you know I was joking around.

    Besides Doug was probably drunk at time.

    That is a weird comment chastising you. I am (in my mind) never off topic – It’s all tangentially related, man.

    Seriously, all of us go way off topic all the time and no one says boo.

    I’d chalk it up to Doug being super drunk on cheap mezcal. The one with the fake worm.

  49. Mister Bluster says:

    @de stijl:..I hope you know I was joking around.
    I try not to take anyone too seriously on these threads.

    Besides Doug was probably drunk at time.
    Assumes facts not in evidence.

    I suspect that we are all Legends in Our Own Minds to some extent.

  50. de stijl says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    You were no more off topic than all of us are every day. Yeah, so you got scolded. All the cool kids like you more now.

    You’re a bad ass.

  51. de stijl says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    You were no more off topic than all of us are every day. Yeah, so you got scolded. All the cool kids like you more now.

    You’re a bad ass.

    Dude! Gil Scott Heron!

    I am super impressed.

    The revolution will not be televised.

  52. Mikey says:

    Apparently the guards on Epstein’s unit were on multiple days of mandatory overtime, and one was not even a correctional officer because the prison is so short-staffed that whatever an employee’s actual job is they can be ordered to fill in wherever a correctional officer is out.

    So the 30 minute interval check of Epstein’s cell…didn’t happen.

    Officers on overtime were watching Epstein in facility with staffing shortages, union says
    https://wapo.st/2ORVqGV

  53. Mister Bluster says:
  54. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    My sorta red-neck big brother had a breezeway with a crappy floor.

    He hired a local gal to do a Jackson Pollock splatter thing on the floor.

    I do not what surprised me more.

    He knew who Jackson Pollock was.

    He liked his work.

    He commissioned a knock-off.

    He got it past my SIL.

    I was so blown away. I’d underestimated him immensely. Guy is a motorhead ffs.

    That was a growth moment for me. I was abashed and ashamed.

  55. Kari Q says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    Actually, I was being sincere. What you were talking about was far more interesting than Epstein.

  56. de stijl says:

    Jamie, in the the Floniverse is the Spike to Flo’s Angel.

    Cordy is the cynical woman with the Princess Leia hair. Or perhaps Harmony. Not sure.

  57. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @de stijl:

    Have I mentioned that I adore Jamie as a concept and a character? That dude needs a raise.

    And he needs one! Have you seen his wife? Seriously high maintenance, but worth it.

    https://tvadvertsongs.com/progressive-jamies-40th/

  58. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds:

    You’re overlooking a priori analyses, IOW if on Tuesday I’ve analyzed something, (2+2=4) on Thursday I don’t need to re-think to know that 2+2=4. That knowledge is stored on my wrinkly gray hard drive.

    More often than you would care to think, a priori analysis was never analysis. You store the results, however they were attained, and don’t examine that when recalling the results.

    You (proverbial you, not specifically you) likely didn’t consciously think in the past, and went with a nearly automatic response based on an emotion. The fact that this automatic response won out, and nothing bad happened means that it gets reinforced in that situation in the future. And then you end up with an anxiety response, or you get PTSD, or you turn into a snarling asshole every time you see the words “TED Talk”, or whatever.

    Some things are very hard to get into the automatic response territory — for instance, learning a musical instrument, and getting to the point where you can switch from a D7 chord to an F chord smoothly on a banjo — but the more emotionally charged something is, the more it sticks.

    As an aside, mindfulness based meditation tries to get you to focus on those almost involuntary, automatic responses, so the conscious mind gets a chance to intercede — which is why it is about as effective as drugs for a whole host of mental health issues (anxiety, moderate depression, ptsd, compulsive behavior…).

  59. de stijl says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    You get me. You totally get me.

    We’re now besties forever and ever and ever and ever.

    Sorry! That actually is totally new video to me. And it’s cool.

    You could do anything with the Jamie character. Flo has to be on point selling the insurance and the brand. But the Jamie character is the trickster in native American parlance.

    These ads are genius because they are both episodic and singletons. Stuff that happens in one ad is acknowledged in 3 ads later. I don’t who makes them, but there is one singular voice who guides the pack and has a unique POV.

    A Flo ad is as important as an episode of Mad Men. They dissect the means by which we think about and interact with companies trying to sell us shit. They teach us why we are susceptible to certain messaging and reinforcements.

    This might seem like I foolin or faking or tailing you along. I am not. I consider the Flo Progressive ads amongst the best media criticisms I’ve ever seen.

    Plus Jamie is awesome.

    There is a possibility I’m obsessed. There’s a possibility I’m actually on to something with this analysis.

  60. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: Hee, hee, hee. You’re so funny 🙂 . Guarneri being silent 😀 . Like that’s gonna happen 😛 .

  61. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: When was teaching middle school students (and sometimes high school students) I used to tell them that the reason they needed to know isosceles triangles (or anything else math related) was because of October 4, 1957. Shortly after that, the nation set out on an educational project that seemed to have as its goal identifying every single student who had the potential to become an engineer. (I was one of the ones that fell through the cracks 🙂 )

    These days, I don’t have that fight as much as I used to. Sadly it’s because nearly all of the students seem to know that their future is someplace not named Kelso, WA. (Their hometown 🙁 )

  62. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @de stijl: I had Progressive insurance when I first came back from Korea. They were the only company that would insure a driver with no driving record for the previous 9 years. They also charged me $400/year more for state minimum liability coverage than I pay now for $500k’s worth.

    Forgive me if I don’t feel the warmth for them that you do. But I did like the “Great Big Jim” commercial. Hate Flo–she’s annoying.

  63. Lit3Bolt says:

    Ok guys. Let me work you through this.

    Epstein killed himself hours after the judge released his documents.

    The guards were “overworked.”

    The camera was “offline.”

    He was deliberately taken off suicide watch mere days after trying to commit suicide. The media is deliberately reticent on this topic.

    The calls condemning “conspiracy theories” are all coming from MSM outlets. Just mere coincidence.

    There are numerous articles about the deplorable conditions that encourage suicide in US prisons, just because a Pedobear, with convenient access to other pedobears, killed himself.

    The media is bought. No one acknowledges the utter truth about that, because then we would have to admit we live in a dictatorship. So the media is going to make us “forget” about Epstein and his Jewish connections, whether they are US, Israeli, UK, or RU.

  64. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Lit3Bolt:

    Ok guys. Let me work you through this.

    But still, you didn’t. Correlation is not causation.

    You strung together some details, and then… The people responsible are the media? or Jews?

    What the hell, man?

    I’ll give you this: right now, we live in an autocracy, but not a dictatorship. But if you were saying it is a dictatorship, then what? Trump is responsible?

    No. The man likely has problems finding breakfast serial in the morning, much less creating a perfect murder in a locked room.

    Sometimes a “suicide” is just that.

  65. Bill says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    But still, you didn’t. Correlation is not causation.

    You strung together some details, and then… The people responsible are the media? or Jews?

    My theory is that Colonel Mustard did it in the Library with a lead pipe.

  66. SKI says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    You strung together some details, and then… The people responsible are the media? or Jews?

    To antisemites like L3B, there is no difference. Nor between Jews and finance or global banking. Reality, evidence, consistency, logic – all have no place in his diseased brain.

    Also, don’t forget the probative weight of putting quotes around certain words because that totally makes them mean the opposite.

  67. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Baghdad Barr:

    “I was appalled – indeed, the entire Department was – and frankly angry, to learn of the MCC’s failure to adequately secure this prisoner”.

    Captain Louis Renault:

    I am shocked- shocked- to find that gambling is going on in here!

    A large part of Barr’s career is based upon protecting the presidency; he lied to protect Bush over Iran-Contra, and he lied to protect Trump over the Mueller Report. Epstein and Trump were “best friends”. Epstein was trafficking in sex workers, and Trump is an admitted serial sexual assaulter. Epstein had a bunch of info. Some of Epsteins girls were recruited from Mar-a-Lago. But OK. Nothing to see here, keep moving.

  68. Lily Bart says: