Nel's New Day

August 30, 2015

Zombie Duggars Won’t Disappear

In the past, zombies were defined as the living dead, soulless corpses. Now the term is also used for legislation, debts, and anything else that reappears after people thought the issues had been resolved. Controversy surrounding the Duggar family, particularly oldest son Josh, fits into that category. The family of “19 Kids and Counting” started publicly suffering in mid-May when the report about Josh sexually molesting five young girls—four of them his younger sisters—went viral. At that time, he was 14, and the youngest girl was under five. The tragedy was more scandalous because his father, Jim Bob, concealed the information from the police until he was no longer in the state legislature and then downplayed Josh’s behavior so much that Josh didn’t face arrest for his crime.

In 2004, the Duggar family began their TV notoriety with a program called “14 Kids and Pregnant Again.” Two years later, Josh was still molesting his sisters. The information was kept under wraps until May 19, 2015, when InTouch published an article about Josh’s crimes along with a police report detailing the abuse. The police report was destroyed, and Josh apologized. He also resigned from his job as a lobbyist for the extreme-conservative religious Family Research Council. Reruns of “19 Kids and Counting” were pulled after over 20 corporations pulled their advertising. Not until July 26, however, did the cable channel cancel the program. Since then, Josh’s activities, past and present, have been headlined on the Internet.

Josh’s life further unraveled after a hacker found the names of 37 million people signing up for the Ashley Madison site. He was the first celebrity to be outed from the release of the names. As a paying member of Ashley Madison, the social-networking site made to facilitate illicit extramarital affairs, he spent almost a thousand dollars on two different accounts between February, 2013, and May, 2015, including an “affair guarantee” fee of two hundred and fifty dollars. Josh had not one, but two, accounts with the site which showed an extensive list of his sexual preferences.

The Ashley Madison account wasn’t the first that Josh created. Over a decade ago, his Facebook profile used to hook up with women was allegedly under the alias “Joe Smithson.” He used a photo of Jonathan Blankfein, son of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, on that profile. The “Smithson” profile was also linked to a profile on OKCupid, “joesmithsonnwa,” until it was flagged by Gawker and deleted. That photo belongs to Hollywood DJ and producer named Matthew McCarthy who is losing jobs because at least one club thought he was linked to the Duggar scandal.

According to porn star Danica Dillon, Josh had sex with her twice while his wife was pregnant. Before InTouch published this information, Dillon passed a polygraph test in which she talked about his coming into the Gold Club in Philadelphia where she was stripping. Josh talked about what a fan he was of Dillon, even before her recent “boob job.” Dillon said that sex with him was “creepy,” that “he was manhandling me, basically tossing me around like I was a rag doll.” Although the sex was consensual, Dillon said, “It was very traumatic. I’ve had rough sex before, but this was terrifying.”

Satan originally got the blame for Josh’s actions, but the responsibility was moved over to Josh’s wife, Anna. The Duggars privately urged Anna to admit that “she should have been more aware of the pressures Josh was under, of the issues he was facing, and how she could have better counseled him or helped him,” according to an unnamed source. Divorce is not an option for Anna because their religion requires her to stay married to Josh forever.

Last week, Josh wrote, “I have been the biggest hypocrite ever. While espousing faith and family values, I have secretly over the last several years been viewing pornography on the internet and this became a secret addiction and I became unfaithful to my wife.” Later the reference to pornography was replaced by a reference to allowing “Satan to build a fortress” in his heart and then completely removed. There was no apology to the lives he damaged through his bigotry toward LGBT people and others who don’t follow his faith. Duggars’ world teaches that women’s improper attitude and dress are to blame for men’s inability to control their libidos.

Family dynamics show possible reasons for Josh’s behavior. Father Jim Bob teaches his sons to repress sexual desires, partly by not looking at attractive women. “Nike” is the code word for the boys to look at their shoes because, as the autobiography Growing Up Duggar states, God forbid that they like looking at women. Sources say that Jim Bob operates like a dictator, for example telling anyone seen kissing before marriage that they shouldn’t do it. Statistics indicate that conservatives, many of whom grow in fundamentalist Christian churches, watch more porn than anyone else. In the Duggars’ home, the father cannot be challenged, women are inferior to men, and using birth control is a sin.

Two unnamed members of the Duggar family are fed up with the way that Josh has gotten away with his sexual behavior. The solution to Josh’s problems was to send him back to the same fundamentalist Christians who supposedly rehabilitated him over a decade ago; even family members don’t believe in this solution. Why they have doubts is understandable: Pastor Paul Kingsbury, who runs the North Love Church facility, reportedly helped a man accused of sexual assault evade prosecution in the United States by keeping him in a mission in Bolivia. According to his protector, the man had fulfilled his penance by showing remorse and would protect him in “any way necessary” from facing charges in the United States.

The brother of Josh’s wife went much farther. Daniel Keller, infuriated by a post from Josh’s sister Jessa about Jesus cleansing Josh if he confesses, engaged in a back-and-forth Twitter exchange that pointed out the difference between confessing and getting caught, concluding with calling Josh a “pig.”

Losing their show cost the Duggars $25 million dollars. First they begged for money, and Michelle complained about having to do the housework. No comment about Jim Bob helping her with the housework. One of Michelle’s big rants came from having to fold laundry at 1:00 in the morning. Their next solution to financing their expensive lifestyle was to have a new show—counseling victims of sexual abuse. At the same time, they’re preparing a documentary, “Breaking the Silence,” featuring Jill and Jessa Duggar plus other sexual abuse victims to bring the issue further into the public eye. Beyond that, they plan a new series featuring themselves, parents who condoned sexual abuse, as sex abuse counselors. That from parents who never sought counseling for Josh’s victims.

If Josh were an ordinary person, leaving others to their lives, the news would not be important. But the family actively opposed a local ordinance to ban LGBT discrimination because they claim that LGBT people are a danger to children. The Duggars have always held themselves up as fine, upstanding Christians to be used as examples for all. After the show’s cancellation, parents Jim Bob and Michelle wrote that “our desire in opening our home to the world is to share Bible principles that are the answers for life’s problems.” Josh could not even take responsibility for his own actions but instead blamed his wife. His sisters, who were victims of his sexual molestation, tried to justify his actions.

As Josh’s sins become more openly known, the conservative world is either ignoring them or claiming that progressives are the hypocrites and that Josh isn’t because he has confessed. At the same time, they continue to pillory people who do not violate the law in the way that Josh has. And they want the United States to become a theocracy that would follow the Duggars’ teaching.

June 3, 2015

Will Hastert Have to Follow His Principles?

Moral values have always been a strong platform of the Republican party, but they consistently betray their own conservative positions. The latest example is 73-year-old Dennis Hastert, former Speaker of the U.S. House, bribing someone to conceal an “unidentified event” long ago while Hastert taught in Yorkville (IL). Promising to pay an unnamed person $3.5 million, Hastert has been indicted for withdrawing $1.7 million of money in sums under $10,000 to avoid IRS detection and then lying to the FBI about the money. It appears that he molested at least two underage males while he was coaching wrestling.

Barney Frank pointed out on All In with Chris Hayes:

“There is a hypocrisy issue. Dennis Hastert was a member of the House who voted for the Defense of Marriage act. He subsequently as Speaker twice put before the House of Representatives the constitutional amendment that would have cancelled retroactively all the same sex marriages that had taken place legally. … The rank hypocrisy of this man using his power to persecute other people for doing what he was doing.”

Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA) was forced to resign from the Speaker position in 1998 because he was having an affair with an employee of the House Agriculture Committee while he was still married. (Later he divorced his wife, and married the woman.)  His replacement, Rep. Robert Livingston (R-LA), resigned because he was having an affair with a lobbyist who was lobbying him. (His replacement was David Vitter, a right-wing family-values conservative who was then caught having adulterous affairs with prostitutes.) Livingston then formed a lobbying group, blocking a Senate bill to call on one of his clients, Egypt, to curtail the country’s human rights abuses.

Hastert took over as Speaker just 18 days after the beginning of impeachment proceedings against President Clinton. Frank concluded, “I think that it now looks like if you take Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Dennis Hastert, and Robert Livingston the Republican Speakers or would be speakers, Clinton is a choir boy.”

Orin Kerr summarized the situation in the Washington Post:

“If I understand the history correctly, in the late 1990s, the President was impeached for lying about a sexual affair by a House of Representatives led by a man who was also then hiding a sexual affair, who was supposed to be replaced by another Congressman who stepped down when forced to reveal that he too was having a sexual affair, which led to the election of a new Speaker of the House who now has been indicted for lying about payments covering up his sexual contact with a boy.”

One of the impeachment “managers” who made the case to the Senate was Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), who had had an adulterous affair. It was called a “youthful indiscretion,” but it happened when Hyde was 41. He is known for the Hyde Amendment barring the use of federal funds to pay for abortions that has annually appeared as riders on appropriation bills for the past 30 years.

Hastert voted “aye” on all four impeachment counts. During the impeachment proceedings, Princeton scholar Sean Wilentz told House Republicans that, in the future, they would be seen as “zealots and fanatics” and added, “History will hunt you down for your cravenness.”

In addition to consistently voting against marriage equality, Hastert voted no on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill to prohibit companies from discriminating against LGBT employees. He was also a strong supporter of funding for abstinence sex education because “more kids need to be taught to just say no, that doesn’t just apply to drugs, it also applies to sex before marriage.” Hastert resigned as Speaker after the discovery that he had protected former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) who had sexual  relationships with boys employed as pages at the U.S. Capitol.

In his autobiography over a decade old ago, Hastert wrote, “I was never a very good liar. Maybe I wasn’t smart enough. I could never get away with it, so I made up my mind as a kid to tell the truth and pay the consequences.”

Hastert codified a House doctrine, first used by Gingrich, that prevented any floor vote on a bill unless a “majority of the majority” party supports the bill. The policy, called “The Hastert Rule,” has resulted in a combination of massive gridlock and partisanship in the House. No bill can go to the floor unless the Speaker of the House gives permission. For example, a bill technically passes the House with 218 votes, but with the current number of Democrats in the House at 170, a bill must have at least 123 Republican votes—that’s a required 293 votes, almost 55 percent of the House members. Last year, the immigration bill passed with 68 votes in the Senate failed to even get an up-or-down vote in the House because too few GOP members supported it.

Known as a nice guy, Hastert hid scandals during his tenure as Speaker for people in his own party. He concealed Tom DeLay’s misconduct until they became obvious. When the ethics committee recommended a series of reprimands for DeLay in 2004, Hastert fired the committee chair, Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO) and two other GOP members of the committee, Kenny Hulshof (MO) and Steve LaTourette (OH) before leading rule changes to make it harder to admonish House members. After three DeLay associates were indicted, Hastert enacted a rule enabling DeLay to stay as majority leader if he were indicted.

Colleagues claimed that Hastert was squeaky clean, but he manipulated land transactions in his home state to increase his net worth by millions of dollars. He bought land at a low price while two cronies purchased adjacent land at a much higher price before merging the parcels in a trust that gave Hastert an inflated share. Using his clout as Speaker, he jammed through a transportation bill with an attached $207 million earmark to fund a highway interchange that neither the Illinois Department of Transportation nor residents adjacent to the land wanted. The Speaker got $3 million, a 500-percent profit, and the highway was never built.

Hastert also forced through the Medicare prescription-drug bill by presiding over the nearly three-hour vote in the dead of night that the rules limited to 15 minutes. The Rules Committee squashed amendments from both Democrats and Republicans with rare conferences late at night and closed to anyone except Hastert’s loyal followers. Provisions, neither in House or Senate bills, were added without notice to lawmakers.

Throughout all the chicanery, Hastert kept a quiet demeanor and stayed away from most Sunday talk shows. Reporters largely ignored his presence while he managed to guide the country into the disaster that exists today.

Where Hastert goes from here, no one knows. His arraignment on financial charges, originally scheduled for tomorrow, has been moved to next Tuesday, June 9. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin, who contributed $1,500 to Hastert’s campaign before taking the bench and is the brother of Illinois House GOP Leader Jim Durkin.

Haley Barbour, former RNC chairman, said about the indictment for paying hush money to the former Speaker of the House because he had sex with a teenager and then lied about it to the FBI:

“It doesn’t matter a bit politically. Democrats hope it does, but I don’t think so.”

The Wall Street Journal questioned the charges against Hastert from “busybody agencies” such as the FBI and IRS,” and NBC’s Pete Williams called the charges purely “technical.” This weekend, on the Sunday talk shows, moderators and reporters raked the prosecution over the coals. NBC News correspondent Pete Williams called the charges against Hastert purely “technical.” ABC’s Dan Abrams and Fox network’s Brit Hume think that “derivative crimes” are minor issues, similar to lying under oath—the charge that Hastert used to impeach President Clinton.

Seventeen years ago, Republicans said that derivative crimes were important, regardless of context, because no one was above the law. Hastert, House deputy majority whip, agreed, and voted to authorize the House Judiciary Committee to investigate Clinton. The committee must “uncover the truth” and “uphold the rule of law,” said Hastert. “Sweeping the matter under the rug just won’t work.” With his votes for impeachment, he declared that the president was not “above the law.” Sixteen years ago, when President Clinton was acquitted, Hastert said, “Republicans in the Congress can be proud that they stood by the principles that have made this nation strong.” The first principle he cited was “respect for the rule of law.”

Now the question is whether Hastert is above the law. Will he be able to conceal his own wrongdoings? I’m guessing yes, because conservatives are usually successful in this area.

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