ethics, law, true crime, Trump

Ghislaine Maxwell gets sentenced to 20 years in federal prison…

Thank God for other items in the news besides Donald Trump’s January 6 shenanigans and the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. As I mentioned yesterday, I’m pretty tired of thinking and writing about abortion. And I’ve been tired of Trump for years now. Nevertheless, if Ghislaine Maxwell hadn’t been delivered a prison sentence yesterday, I could still write reams about abortion and Trump. There’s still a lot to be said and written about both subjects. But I won’t be opining about those two tired topics this Wednesday morning. Today, I’m going to write about what I think of Ghislaine Maxwell’s punishment. So here goes…

Yesterday afternoon– I think it was afternoon in Germany, anyway, Ghislaine Maxwell, former British socialite and ex girlfriend of sex offender extraordinaire, Jeffrey Epstein, finally got sentenced for her role in Epstein’s disgusting crimes against young women. Ms. Maxwell was accused of sex trafficking young women. She befriended beautiful young girls who hoped to become models and lured them to Epstein’s lair, where they would be forced to engage in sex acts with Epstein and his powerful and wealthy friends.

Jeffrey Epstein had been awaiting his own trial when he allegedly committed suicide in jail back in August 2019. Many people questioned whether or not Epstein wasn’t actually murdered, since many high powered people were his friends and stood to lose a lot if he testified in court. How powerful were these people? Well, they included people like Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Kevin Spacey, Itzhak Perlman, astronaut John Glenn, many US senators, and our very own loser ex “president”, Trump.

In 2020, I watched Netflix’s revelatory documentary about what went on in Epstein’s fancy homes in Palm Beach, Florida, London, England, New York City, and his private island in the Caribbean. Ghislaine Maxwell was in the thick of it, and she presented a gentle, friendly face to trusting young women who were looking for a big break. Instead, they were used and abused by Epstein and his depraved, corrupt buddies. When I think about the metaphorical snake pit those women faced, filled with slimy narcissistic scumbags, it makes me cringe with revulsion.

Ghislaine Maxwell orchestrated much of the abuse, funneling girls and young women into the vortex of Epstein’s inner sanctums, victimizing them as she smiled and pretended to be their friends. They would trust a woman before they’d trust the lecherous middle aged men who wanted to use them for their own sexual gratification. Now, those women are living with the aftermath of that abuse, and Maxwell knows that she will be in prison until at least her late 70s. She must also pay a $750,000 fine.

Maxwell was arrested in July 2020, and she’s been sitting in a Brooklyn jail cell the whole time, as her case has slowly ground through the court system. Now, it’s time to get down to business. She didn’t get the five years her lawyers asked for, and she didn’t get the 30 years prosecutors wanted. She might not die in prison, but her life as a socialite is over. As she learned her fate, Maxwell addressed her victims, claiming to empathize with them, and telling them she hoped her prison sentence would bring them “peace and finality”.

I read about this case last night, as many people were still reeling from the Roe v. Wade decision, and learning about Donald Trump’s horrible conduct on January 6, 2021, as Cassidy Hutchinson testified about Trump’s incredibly narcissistic and abusive behavior. Trump was a friend of Epstein’s, and I know of at least one person who described what he did to her at Epstein’s home. A lot of people are quick to deny Hutchinson’s testimony about January 6, and they doggedly defend their man, Trump. I have little hope that Trump will ever face punishment for his crimes against people. But at least they got Ghislaine. I think 20 years in prison and having to pay a huge fine is fair. And in spite of how terrible her crimes are, I hope Ghislaine Maxwell is treated humanely while she does her time in prison.

Someone in the Facebook comments wrote that Ghislaine Maxwell should spend all 20 years in solitary confinement. Against my better judgment, I wrote “That would be inhumane. She needs to be punished, not tortured. America should be above torture (even if it isn’t).

A few people liked my comment, but at least two people gave me grief over it. One seemingly outraged woman asked me if I would feel the same way if it had been one of my daughters who was victimized by Ghislaine Maxwell. To that, I responded “Yes, I would. I don’t condone torture. Twenty years in solitary confinement would be torture.” A man tagged me in his angry comment about how much Maxwell should suffer. I wrote to him that he was entitled to his opinion, but I disagree with it. I don’t ever want to get to a point at which I think torturing other people is okay… even if I completely understand the sentiment behind those thoughts. Solitary confinement, even just for a couple of weeks, is considered inhumane and akin to torture. I am not okay with that.

Once again, I’m left sitting here scratching my head at the logic of some of my countrymen. So many people are happy to excuse Donald Trump for his egregious and well documented crimes against people over his long career as a businessman, politician, and “star”. A lot of them would be absolutely delighted to see him elected president again, even though he boldly admits to having no control over his sexual impulses, abuses his employees, cheats his creditors, and demonstrates an attitude that he is ABOVE the law. But some of those same people want to torture Ghislaine Maxwell. The mind boggles. Maybe it’s because she’s a woman, and women aren’t supposed to be “monsters”.

I remember a couple of years ago, when Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman were in the news for their fraudulent actions of trying to buy their daughters spots at prestigious universities. I read so many comments from “outraged” people who thought they should just ROT in prison for decades. What Loughlin and Huffman did were not crimes of violence. Yes, their crimes were dishonest and unfair. Yes, they abused their great privilege and wealth. They needed to be held accountable, and they were. But plenty of people felt that their sentences were too light, and they should be locked up for years.

I remember when 18 year old Skylar Mack went to the Cayman Islands and flouted the COVID rules there. She got caught by the police, and faced incarceration as punishment. At one point, she was sentenced to four months in jail, and some Americans were complaining when her family members tried to get her sentence reduced, which it eventually was. I wrote about her case several times in this blog. A few people wanted to tell me off for not wanting Skylar to rot in jail. My response is that I don’t see how locking up an 18 year old for two more months in a hellish Caribbean jail, potentially traumatizing her for life, would be justice.

Ghislaine Maxwell, of course, is no Skylar Mack, Lori Loughlin, or Felicity Huffman. Her crimes were much worse than theirs were, and she really did legitimately hurt people. So yes, she needs to be severely punished, and it’s entirely fitting that she spend a couple of decades locked up. But even though Maxwell’s crimes against young women were horrific, we are not much better as a society if our response to Maxwell’s crimes is to punish her using methods that are considered cruel by most civilized members of the global community. The United States is supposed to be a first world nation. Americans, as a people, should be above torturing people.

There’s another, more selfish reason I don’t condone torturing Ghislaine Maxwell. And that’s if, by some circumstance, I ever end up on the wrong side of the law, I would not want to be tortured. I wouldn’t want torture for my friends or loved ones, if they ever got sent to prison. I don’t think abusing people delivers good results for society, especially if there’s a chance that a person in prison will ever be released. I don’t want to see that person so completely shattered that they can’t recover. Not only is it not good for them, or their friends and loved ones, it’s also not good for everyone else in the world, who might be victimized if they go off the rails. Abuse has a terrible effect on people. It makes them angry, jaded, and potentially violent. I don’t think that angry, jaded, violent people, fresh from incarceration, are safe to be around. People should be able to recover from their mistakes. Otherwise, why go on living? And what would they have to lose, committing more crimes against other people?

I don’t think there are many truly evil people in the world. As long as someone still has a shred of humanity within them, we should have some respect for them as human beings. Every one of us would want the same consideration. And, as people who haven’t committed serious crimes, we should be at a level at which we can grant basic mercy, even if someone has done something really terrible. Of course, I write this as I’ve also read many comments from people who think anyone who has had an abortion should be jailed for life. It’s probably hyperbole when people say or write these things. I still wish people would stop and think for a minute when they express this kind of vitriol. At best, it’s unhelpful and unrealistic. At worst, it promotes barbaric ideas that put the United States in the same company as Middle Eastern countries where prisoners are routinely tortured and denied basic rights.

But I do understand the outrage… and I do agree that Maxwell should suffer the consequences of her actions. I think that will happen. Ghislaine Maxwell has spent most of her life pampered and cosseted, cushioned by extreme wealth and privilege. Prison will not be pleasant for her. We don’t need to make it worse for her by locking her in a hole for twenty years. That’s extreme, and it would make her go insane… and then we would be obliged to treat her mental illness, although the reality is, she would probably be neglected. And then there would be people who would actually pity her… which she probably doesn’t deserve at all.

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politics, rants, religion

“Christians” who complain about gas prices have missed the plot…

Last night, my former tenth grade homeroom teacher, now serving as president of a Christian university located in the American South, posted a shoutout to people who live in his community. My former homeroom teacher– a truly awesome guy and inspired leader, by the way– shared the news that a local gas station owner had announced that he still had gas priced at $3.68 a gallon. The gas station owner was encouraging people to fill their tanks while the “cheaper” gas was still available. As soon as the next shipment of gas arrived, the gas prices would have to go up.

Naturally, a lot of people were commenting about that, because Americans aren’t used to having to pay so much for gasoline. One person wrote a bitter complaint about the high gas prices, ending her rant with “Let’s go, Brandon.”

Before I knew it, I had responded “That’s not his fault.”

A minute later, she dashed off a response to me, as did someone else. I’m pretty sure there were a couple of “laughing” reactions, too. I didn’t bother to read the comments the people left, because I had a feeling they would be snarky and argumentative in nature. It was time for bed, and I didn’t want to get charged up over politics before trying to go to sleep. Also, I really respect my former tenth grade homeroom teacher, and I didn’t want to get involved in an argument on his Facebook page. Especially since I know he’s a devout Christian, and I have a tendency to be salty sometimes. Particularly when it’s later in the evening. 😉

I know I should have probably kept scrolling… because these folks have made up their minds about Joe Biden, and they truly believe he’s the cause of everything wrong in the world. There’s nothing I can say or write to change their minds. They think Joe Biden is responsible for the high gas prices, even though they are just plain WRONG.

I don’t think Joe Biden is the most charismatic leader we’ve ever had, but I do think he’s basically a decent person who cares about others. That’s a lot more than I could ever say about Donald Trump. And– before anyone points this out to me– I want to make it clear that I never thought Trump was responsible for everything bad in the world, either. I think Trump is an inherently bad person because of proven bad things he’s said and done, not because of his so-called political party. I don’t believe that all Republicans are evil. I do think quite a lot of them are selfish, ignorant, narcissistic, and completely out of touch with other people. But I know that not all of them are that way, and in fact, many Democrats are just as out of touch. I think today’s Republican Party, on the whole, is a bastardization of what the Republican Party used to be, years ago. A lot of people identify as Republicans and don’t think twice about it. They just keep aligning with the party they’ve always aligned with, even though quite a few Republican leaders are truly reprehensible people. But again, there are some truly crappy Democrats, too.

But anyway, I didn’t want to get into a political argument on my old teacher’s page, so I removed the notifications that the people prompted for me, turned out the light, and went to sleep. However, before I fell asleep, I noticed that an Epinions buddy from Texas, a man who is a doctoral level Christian minister who seems to really practice what he preaches, shared today’s featured photo on his Facebook page.

I thought about it for a minute and shared the same photo on my page, with a reminder for Christians in the United States who are bitching about gas prices. Right now, in Germany, gas is the euro equivalent of about $8 a gallon. Gas has always been significantly higher priced in Europe, which has much better public transportation systems and higher taxes than the United States has. I can remember being shocked when I heard that Germans were paying the equivalent of $5 a gallon. Of course, over here, gas is sold by the liter. Someone pointed that out to me on my page, and I explained that I had put my comment in terms of gallons because I’m addressing Americans, many of whom don’t travel abroad and have no concept of the metric system. My overall point is, gas is expensive in a lot of places, and that’s not Biden’s fault.

Then I thought about it some more, and it suddenly struck me as totally ridiculous that Christians are complaining about gas prices. Where is the outrage over the high prices of housing, food, and medical care? These are basic necessities for every person on the planet. Whenever a politician wants to tackle the high prices associated with basic needs, they get accused of pushing socialism. Most Republicans don’t like paying for social safety nets for people who are in need. Many Republicans assume that anyone who is poor, or sick, or food insecure is that way due to their own fault. They preach about personal responsibility, and push laws that are designed to punish or humiliate people who are in need. They lament the prospect of socialized medicine in the United States that might make healthcare more affordable for everyone. But God forbid they have to pay more for the gas to fill up those monster sized trucks and land yachts they drive to jobs that enrich other people…

I think Christians who are more concerned about high gas prices, than they are outrageous healthcare, housing, and food prices, have extremely fucked up priorities. Christians are supposed to follow the example of Jesus Christ, aren’t they? So if you’re really a Christian, shouldn’t you actually be concerned about people in need? Didn’t Christ care about hungry, sick, tired, and suffering people? Wasn’t Christ humble and gentle? Would Jesus complain about high gas prices and blame the U.S. president for something that is happening mostly due to world events?

Everybody needs housing, healthcare, and food. Not everybody needs to gas up cars. Granted, in the United States, cars are generally a lot more necessary than they are in Europe. However, even though Americans need cars more than Europeans do, they still aren’t necessary for living. I think in the coming weeks, we may all collectively discover why our dependence on cheap gas makes us weaker in so many ways.

What really amazes me, though, is this sudden understanding and affinity some Republicans have for Russia, and for Putin’s complaints about Ukraine. A lot of these people– Trump supporters– have #Pray for Ukraine posts on their social media pages. But don’t they realize that Donald Trump is Putin’s fan boy? Don’t they know that if Trump were still in office, Trump wouldn’t say much about what Putin is doing to Ukraine? Trump and Putin have a lot in common… although I think Putin is a lot smarter and, unfortunately, even more sociopathic than Trump is.

When I was a kid, the 1984 movie Red Dawn was released. I remember watching that movie and thinking– DAMN!– if the Soviet Union ever invades the United States, I will be signing up to fight! I was brave and naive when I was twelve! That movie was loaded with right-wing, God bless America, anti-Soviet propaganda bullshit. It was a very violent film that made Russians out to be terrible people as a whole. In 1984, a lot of Americans were legitimately worried about nuclear war. In the 80s, many Americans openly disdained communist Soviet Union and its people, even though most of us knew very little about the Soviet Union. It was a closed society, so it wasn’t easy to mingle with people from there. But watch television from the 80s, and you will see MANY references to nukes and how awful Russia is… and a lot of that propaganda was promoted by Republicans.

Then came 1991… and the Soviet Union fell apart. A few years after that, I went to live in the former Soviet Union. It changed my life. I now count some former Soviets as friends. I started seeing things from a different perspective. I no longer saw the Soviet Union as one big country. I now see that it was comprised of fifteen diverse republics full of amazing people who mostly want and need the same things I want and need. For a couple of decades, it looked like maybe we could finally be friends with people from Russia and other former Soviet countries. Maybe our governments could cooperate with each other and act for the benefit of humanity. Then came Putin… and he’s acting like a domestic abuser punishing his mate for refusing to marry him. Ukraine doesn’t want to be in a relationship with Russia anymore. Russia won’t take no for an answer and is forcing itself on the Ukrainian people… like an abusive ex who won’t go away. I must credit Bill for providing me with that imagery. Bill understands the abusive spouse dynamic better than I ever could… but when he presented that example to me, it struck me as how insightful it is.

Someday, maybe this ugly Soviet era building will be rebuilt into something more akin to Ukrainian tastes. But for now, this picture represents profound loss and suffering… and people who have lost everything.

I saw a photo of a burning building in Ukraine this morning. I noticed how ugly and depressing that building was. I remember living in a couple of buildings that looked just like it when I lived in Armenia. As I looked at the above image, it occurred to me that someday, that burning building will probably be rebuilt. It might even be rebuilt into something much better on all levels. That will probably take years, though, and for now, the fact remains that this ugly building on fire was home for some people who have now lost everything. And in America, we have a bunch of so-called Christians blaming Joe Biden for the fact that they have to pay more for gas. It’s ridiculous, short-sighted, and shameful. And now, Republicans seem to be on Putin’s side, even as they “pray for Ukraine”. I guess they pray for Ukraine to hurry up and submit so they can get cheap gas again, and the stock market will rebound. Perhaps they think Ukraine should just “make the best of a bad situation”. Maybe Ukraine should just lie down and “enjoy” the rape, as some anti-woman Republican legislators have suggested to sexual assault victims. I think a lot of Republicans are as naive and uninformed as I was when I was twelve.

A lot of these folks probably think Ukraine should also “make the best of a bad situation”. But if Russia invaded the United States, what would they say?

Nobody likes to pay high gas prices. I hate seeing our stock values plummet on a daily basis. It would be so great if things were peaceful and prosperous and the economy was humming along. But that’s not how it is… and the fact that it’s not how it is isn’t solely Joe Biden’s fault. He’s not invading Ukraine. He didn’t cause COVID-19, which also had an effect on gas prices and the economy. And he doesn’t control gas prices. He doesn’t have that much power. So if you are a “Christian” who is complaining about gas prices and blaming Biden, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your priorities. Do you think Jesus would be concerned about filling his gas tank over the pain and suffering of other human beings? I sure don’t.

Edited to add: A fellow American in Germany shared this…

Americans don’t have it so bad when it comes to gas prices.

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