Five things I know about Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby. Matt Slocum AP
Bill Cosby. Matt Slocum AP

After the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned the rape conviction of Bill Cosby, I heard his lawyers say a bunch of hooey. And, involuntarily, I yelled at the television.

There are five things I know about Cosby.

1) His comedy routines are still stuck in my head. As I wrote a little over a decade ago, he was an “iconic individual in my life.” I watched him in everything from I Spy to JELL-O pudding commercials.

2) He is a disappointingly awful excuse for a human being. Five dozen women have credibly accused Cosby of sexual assault. Using his considerable power and influence, he took advantage of his position to become a serial predator.

3) Nevertheless, the overturning of the conviction, on purely legal grounds, was correct, unfortunately. As Slate noted, “Don’t blame the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Blame prosecutor-turned–Trump lawyer Bruce Castor.”

As the Washington Post noted: “The crux of the ruling is this: Castor had said he had a deal with Cosby saying Cosby wouldn’t be charged criminally for the sexual assault claimed by Andrea Constand. Castor said he did so to prevent Cosby from pleading the Fifth Amendment in ongoing civil litigation.”

“The thrust of that opinion is that, even though then-Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor never reached a formal agreement with Cosby that granted him immunity from prosecution, a press release that Castor sent out in 2005 — combined with Cosby’s later, incriminating testimony in a civil lawsuit — had the same effect as a formal immunity deal.

A5

I resist the notion of suggesting, though, that Cosby was released “on a technicality.” Constitutional protection is not “a technicality.” The right not to incriminate oneself is not “a technicality.” If there had not been immunity in a civil case against prosecution in the criminal case, Cosby would never have elocuted his actions in the civil case.

4) Still, this is awful news. From the Guardian: “Victoria Valentino, who accused Cosby of assaulting her, told CNN that she was “absolutely shocked, stunned’ by the court’s decision. ‘It’s a gut-punch. What does it say about women’s words, a woman’s value, all the lives that he damaged? It’s outrageous. I’m infuriated,’ she said.

“Lawyer Gloria Allred, who represented many of Cosby’s accusers, said the decision must be ‘devastating’ for those women. ‘My heart especially goes out to those who bravely testified in both of his criminal cases,’ she said.”

“Like it or not, the decision to prosecute or not prosecute lies solely within the discretion of a district attorney and once he makes an agreement with a defendant, that agreement is a contract just like any other and when the defendant relies on that agreement, that is a binding contract,” Randy Zelin, who teaches at Cornell Law School, told USA TODAY.

He predicted the decision will have value as a precedent. “It means an oral agreement is sufficient to enforce a promise from a prosecutor,” Zelin said. “The good news is prosecutors are now on notice to be careful what they promise – and to put it in writing.”

Andrew Wyatt

5) Bill Cosby’s team should just shut up. Andrew Wyatt is the guy who complained about  Eddie Murphy’s joke on Saturday Night Live in 2019. Murphy said: “If you would’ve told me 30 years ago that I would be this boring, stay-at-home house dad and Bill Cosby would be in jail — even I wouldn’t have taken that bet.” He then did an impression of Cosby saying, “Who’s America’s dad now?”

Upon Cosby’s release, Wyatt said. “This is a man who was railroaded, who was targeted because of a black man being America’s dad… On this hot day, this is a hot verdict for us that we will forever cherish because we got one of the greatest, or the greatest entertainer alive today, Mr. Bill Cosby, this great American citizen.” Wyatt claimed “vindication” in the rape case and a victory for black Americans. I’m not buying it. At all.

As Renée Graham in the Boston Globe noted: Black America deserves justice. Bill Cosby’s release from prison isn’t it. A powerful man escaping accountability doesn’t help Black people ensnared in an unjust legal system — or encourage sexual assault survivors to speak out.

Black America

“Cosby shows his disdain not only for sexual assault survivors but for the same Black America he spent years criticizing in speeches promoting respectability politics as he willfully ignored systemic racism as a blight on generations of Black people.”

Sidebar: the initial remarks by Cosby’s TV wife Phylicia Rashad is why I don’t tweet.

In summary, the opinion piece by Emma Gray of MSNBC speaks to me. “Processing [the] events requires us to hold many truths at once: I believe the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had legal reason to come to the conclusion that it did; I believe every person should be afforded due process; the criminal justice system is fallible and broken; I believe Bill Cosby is a sexual predator; I believe victims of sexual assault are routinely failed by the justice system and the culture as a whole.”

So no, I won’t be seeing him on a proposed comedy tour. Ever.

Sha’Carri Richardson, athletics and marijuana

Tokyo Olympics

sha'carri richardsonThe 30-day suspension of American Sha’Carri Richardson for a positive marijuana test means she is barred from competing in the women’s 100-meter dash at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. But as I’ve read reactions across the board, I’ve concluded that her suspension is stupid.

From the Denver Post: She should have nothing to apologize for. “There is only one reason why the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) should exist: To ensure athletes’ success on the international stage is determined more by pure athletic ability than who they employ as their pharmacist. Which is why [the suspension] makes absolutely zero sense.

“Back in 2011, a WADA-sponsored paper determined marijuana was a performance-enhancing drug, which might hold more water… if Richardson were a competitive eater or gamer.

A ‘substance of abuse’

“Now a decade later, marijuana’s inclusion on WADA’s list of banned substances is tied to its classification as a ‘substance of abuse.’ Of course, that bit of paternal moralizing has nothing to do with ensuring Richardson doesn’t have an unfair advantage on the track.

“Another unfortunate and devastating development? That Richardson felt compelled to appear on NBC’s TODAY show to apologize for her marijuana use and explain how it was tied to her own personal attempts to cope with her [biological] mother’s death.”

As she told NBC: “To hear that information coming from a complete stranger, it was definitely triggering. It was definitely nerve-shocking. It was just like, who are you to tell me that? No offense against him at all. He was just doing his job. But definitely, that sent me into a state of mind, a state of emotional panic.

“I still have to go out and put out a performance for my dream, go out there and still compete. From there, just blinded by emotions, just blinded by hurting. I knew I couldn’t hide myself. In some type of way, I was just trying to hide my pain.”

Boston wouldn’t ban her

From the Boston Globe: Sha’Carri Richardson isn’t a cheater. She’s human. And she got caught up in a system that might need to change.

“With her newly tinted orange hair trailing behind her like flames, she captured our hearts not only with her performance on the track, but with her moving story off it, seen in the emotional hug she climbed into the stands to share with her grandmother.

“As we know now, it wasn’t any sort of steroid or performance-enhancer that was found in Richardson’s test sample. It was marijuana, a drug that is legal in Oregon, where the trials were held, continues to be legalized in states across the country…

“The mental health of athletes is a similarly heavy topic, one that has gained more and more public attention in recent years, so much so it was listed by both USOPC chairperson Susanne Lyons and chief executive Sarah Hirshland as one of the organization’s top priorities in a recent teleconference with reporters. As Hirshland said, the emphasis on mental health needs isn’t just important for Olympians on their watch, but ‘for society writ large.’

Coincidentally, from the National Memo: “Justice Clarence Thomas Says Federal Laws Against Marijuana No Longer Needed.” Clarence Thomas!

According to the Washington Post, the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited list published on Jan. 1 lists the chemical compound found in marijuana, THC, next to cocaine, MDMA/ecstasy, and heroin as a substance of abuse and that the rule book says they are considered substances of abuse because they “are frequently abused in society outside of the context of sport.”

The rules

A right-wing rag complained, in that eye-rolling way, that AOC said that Richardson’s suspension was “racist.” I do find this MoveOn piece interesting. “Elite Black women Olympic athletes undergo exceptional levels of scrutiny, from Simone Biles’ recent record-breaking double pike vault which received artificially suppressed scores despite its difficulty to Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi, two Namibian runners who won’t be permitted to run in their main events because of their naturally high testosterone levels. And we learned the Olympics decided to ban swim caps designed for the hair of Black swimmers.

Even International Olympic Committee member and a founder of the World Anti-Doping Agency Dick Pound thinks this marijuana ban needs to go, saying, “One of these days, we should probably either take it off the list entirely or say it’s there but the minimum sanction should be something like a warning, so you’re not losing any period of eligibility.” So why is it being enforced now?

Patchwork quilt

In my latter days working as a librarian, the Small Business Administration and by extension SBDCs were, for a relatively brief time, banned from helping any business that was dealing with cannabis. This included people growing hemp for non-consumable purposes. It was, fortunately, rescinded, because it was an inane policy.

The fact that marijuana is treated as though it were heroin at the federal level is crazy. To that end, I support the cannabis banking bill passed by the House in 2021.
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“Banks have generally been unwilling to do business with companies that sell marijuana or related products, fearing they could run afoul of federal laws.

“That has left companies in the marijuana industry with few options, including relying on just a handful of small financial institutions or doing business in cash. The American Bankers Association has lobbied aggressively for the ‘SAFE Banking Act’ bill.”

Hate crimes: Atlanta spa murders

Stop AAPI Hate

Atlanta spaMy feelings about the Atlanta spa murders bounce between being really sad and extremely angry. Of course, I’m devastated by the loss of life. But the false notion that this is an incident unrelated to a broader societal pathology is infuriating.

As the Boston Globe indicated, This time needs to be different for Asian Americans. “Violence and racist acts against Asian Americans are not new — see the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese internment camps…” Anti-Asian policies and attitudes in the U.S. date back several decades.

“This is a fraught moment for Asian Americans everywhere. The community is on edge, bringing us back to the 1980s when anti-Asian sentiment ran high as Japanese carmakers crippled the US auto industry. In 1982, Vincent Chin, a 27-year-old Chinese-American, became collateral damage when he was beaten to death with a baseball bat in Michigan by a Chrysler autoworker and his out-of-work stepson. The two white men received zero prison time.

“Chin’s killing ushered in a new era of Asian American activism. The Atlanta murders must serve as another tipping point in this country to recognize that the racism against Asian Americans is deeper than most people realize and that we need to stamp it out.”

Recent bigotry

Of course, Americans are largely ahistorical people. So let’s look at more recent trends. Heather Cox Richardson, a political historian, has written a lengthy post on Facebook. I recommend the whole post.

After touting the great US relationship with China as recently as mid-February 2020, 45 “began to turn on China… He insisted that China had not told him about the deadly nature of the virus, and began to call it the ‘Chinese virus’” or the ‘Chy-na virus,'” his preferred Sinophobic slur.

“By April 17, a Republican strategy document urged candidates to deflect attention from the nation’s disastrous coronavirus news by attacking China… Democrats would not stand up to China, the document told Republican candidates to say, but ‘I will stand up to China, bring our manufacturing jobs back home, and push for sanctions on China for its role in spreading this pandemic.'”

While the previous regime said otherwise, the intelligence community concluded that China did not try to influence the election.

Still, with the politicization of the pandemic, hate crimes against Asian-Americans began to rise. There were about 3800 of them between March 19, 2020, and February 28, 2021, according to Stop AAPI Hate.

Chinese are the largest ethnic group (42.2%) that report experiencing hate, followed by Koreans (14.8%), Vietnamese (8.5%), and Filipinos (7.9%). Women report hate incidents 2.3 times more than men.

Hate crimes

Moreover, per the Boston Globe: “Six of the eight victims were Asian women. As much as some may have wanted to believe it wasn’t another racially motivated hate crime, it’s impossible to disentangle racism from misogyny in the white shooter’s denial of a racial motive — threaded, as it was, with a racist trope. It wasn’t Asian Americans he wanted to eliminate, you see. It was Asian-American temptresses.”

(And WTH? Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) glorifies lynching in a rant during a hearing on anti-Asian attacks. Let’s trade in one bigoted imagery for another?)

So, yes, these were hate crimes, as Trevor Noah said of the murderer. (I’m leaving off the word “alleged” since he has reportedly confessed; mentally insert it, if you need to.). We shan’t be gaslighted. The killer didn’t have a really bad day.

Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, died. Xiaojie “Emily” Tan, 49, died. Paul Andre Michels, 54, died.  Daoyou Feng, 44, died. Soon C. Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, and Yong A. Yue, all died. Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz, 30 is still fighting for his life. They and their families and friends had a really bad day.

It’s time to stop the hate. I’m unclear about the efficacy of online hashtags, but I’ll do it anyway. #STOPASIANHATE

StopAsianHate

Rushing to say good things about Limbaugh

cruel bigotries

LimbaughWhen I heard that Rush Limbaugh had died, my first instinct was to post what Arthur posted. In fact, the graphic I purloined from Arthur with permission. My parents DID use to say that if you don’t have something good to say about someone to say nothing. 

Then someone on Quora wrote, “Do you liberals have ANYTHING good to say about him?” So I thought and I thought, and I thought some more. Maybe it’s the Christian thing, or maybe just a challenge. So I took some bits from 1440.com, the AP, the Boston Globe, and Daily Kos.

He was consequential

“You didn’t have to like or even listen to Rush Limbaugh to be affected by what he did. Conservative talk radio wasn’t a genre before him. Without Limbaugh, it’s hard to imagine a Fox News Channel, or a President Donald Trump, or a media landscape defined by shouters of all stripes that both reflect and influence a state of political gridlock.”

“’He was the most important individual media figure of the last four decades,” said Ian Reifowitz, professor of historical studies at the State University of New York and author of ‘The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh’s Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump.’ Limbaugh led the way in getting people “scared about the browning of the country.”

Changing governmental regs have consequences

“Launched in 1988—shortly after the repeal of a policy requiring equal airtime for opposing commentary on matters of public importance—” his eponymous talk show “expanded to more than 650 affiliate networks, boasting an estimated 20 million monthly listeners “

“There is no talk radio as we know it without Rush Limbaugh. It just doesn’t exist,” said Sean Hannity, who has 15 million radio listeners beyond his Fox News Channel show. “And I’d even make the argument in many ways: there’s no Fox News or even some of these other opinionated cable networks…”

“It wasn’t just that he transformed the media landscape, but he transformed the Republican Party,” said Nicole Hemmer, author of “Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics.” “He became a power player and someone who could move voters.”

He made vulgarity acceptable

“Some of Limbaugh’s language was downright ugly. He invented the term ‘feminazi,’ called Chelsea Clinton a ‘dog’ when she was 12 years old and had to apologize for calling a young woman a ‘slut’ for arguing that birth control be covered by health insurance. He mocked the death of AIDS victims and played the parody song ‘Barack the Magic Negro’ when Obama was elected president.

“In the Limbaugh lexicon, advocates for the homeless were ‘compassion fascists,’… environmentalists were ‘tree-hugging wackos.’ He delivered ‘AIDS updates’ with a Dionne Warwick song, ‘I’ll Never Love This Way Again,’ ridiculed Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s disease symptoms, and called global warming a hoax.

“The headline on HuffPost’s obituary said Limbaugh ‘saturated America’s airwaves with cruel bigotries, lies and conspiracy theories.’ The Root called him a ‘spouter of racist, hate-filled garbage.'” And he sparked a “firestorm of loud-mouthed, racist, misogynist imitators.”

Ahead of the curve re: fake news

“He was not above baldfaced lies. During the debate over Obama’s 2009 health care bill, he fed the rumor mills over its provisions to have Medicare and insurers pay for optional consultations with doctors on palliative and hospice care, saying they empowered ‘death panels’ that would ‘euthanize’ elderly Americans.

“Limbaugh supported Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen and, on January 7, compared rioters at the Capitol to people who sparked the Revolutionary War.”

His wife apparently loved him

Limbaugh’s wife, Kathryn, made the announcement of his death on his show.

That’s all I’ve got, except for a  Mark Evanier story and some guy talking mostly about himself

GameStop, Robinhood: explain it to me

Bernie meme

Bernie SandersA smart, nearly 80-year-old man wears mittens suitable for a cold DC day. How does it become a meme? And when do we decide it’s over? At least Bernie seems amused if slightly bemused by it.

This pic, BTW, was forwarded to me by my daughter. I have no idea why.

GameStop? What’s a GameStop?

Explain it like I’m 5 years old: A desperate nation tries to understand the GameStop saga. “There better be a test about the GameStop saga. When it burst into the news, I dutifully dropped my other studies and applied myself to the stock market frenzy.

“The short. The short squeeze. Margin call. Payment for order flow. The CBOE Volatility Index. Go ahead, ask me anything.

“Wait, hold on a moment: I swear I understood it like a second ago.”

I think the Globe is correct, that “we’re dealing with a Category 3 story… That’s a story that’s simultaneously complicated and simple, compelling but somehow boring, and can only truly be explained by John Oliver or a kindergarten teacher.

“Category 1: These are stories that are so easy that any civilian could go on CNN with no notice and comment authoritatively. Meghan and Harry leaving the Royal family. Murder hornets…

“Category 2: Stories you will never understand, no matter how hard you try so you can skip right over them. Physicists finding a way to test superstring theory. The new AI tool that cracks the code of protein structures…

“But then there’s the third category, which is when facts you should be able to grasp — if the Wall Street bros can, why not you? We’re not talking Stephen Hawking here — briefly seem within reach, but then slip away.”

Hank Green spends four minutes explaining the “short squeeze.” Whatever that is.

Does it wear green tights?

And what the heck is Robinhood? I’d never of it. According to this two-star review of the app, its “claim to fame is that they do not charge commissions for stock, options, or cryptocurrency trading. Due to industry-wide changes, however, they’re no longer the only free game in town.

“The firm’s target customer base is young people new to investing, who are drawn to the app by advertising that leans heavily on words such as ‘free’ and ‘democratization.’ By and large, this tactic has succeeded, drawing in 10 million accounts held by an unknown number of customers. But what happens to them when they outgrow Robinhood’s meager research capabilities or get frustrated by outages during market surges?”

You know their control of the market is too strong when AOC and Ted Cruz both think so.

Too bad John Oliver is on hiatus. Here, read these pieces from Nation of Change and Business Insider. I think it means…

And

Why is clogging while eating spaghetti so fascinating to me?