When the Emperor Realizes

After Epstein, nobody believes our government - not even the government itself.

It's become commonplace to observe that the Trump presidency is like no other in American history, at least not in living memory.  Even in historical memory, the only presidency which seems even to approach the levels of rancor and political upheaval, the Civil War aside, is that of Andrew Jackson - and not even Joe Biden can remember quite that far back.

This makes life difficult for pundits and analysts: how can you predict what will happen, when pretty much everything that is happening doesn't really resemble anything you're familiar with?  Unlike our better-paid counterparts on TV, we can and do dig back into the pages of history; unfortunately, about all we seem to be learning is that a war is brewing.  Even that observation is becoming increasingly widely recognized.

We can't take refuge in writing about interesting personalities, because aside from Trump himself, it seems like just about everybody else in our national power structure is so grossly incompetent, utterly dishonest, or profoundly evil in every imaginable way as to make us want to lose our lunch.  What's left to write about that doesn't make us want to jump off a bridge?

Fortunately, Scragged not being our livelihood, we don't absolutely have to; unfortunately, we feel a sense of responsibility to our readers and a sense of shame when we find ourselves at a loss for words.  Surely there's something left to say that isn't depressing?

As the saying goes, every cloud has its silver lining, and so it is with convicted child sex offender Jeffery Epstein, lately passed into the immortality of legend.  We find ourselves in full agreement with, of all folks, Charles Pierce of Esquire magazine:

Nobody Will Ever Believe the Official Story on Epstein

Absolutely nobody is going to believe any official story that comes out about this.

There isn't much that can bring everyone in America together, but with his untimely demise, Mr. Epstein has accomplished it: every single person in these United States who knows his name and death - and by now, that's just about all of us - is wholly convinced that we're being lied to.

Of course, exactly how we are being lied to is the subject of even more debate.  Was Epstein offed by Trump partisans, or the Russians, to protect Trump?  Is he another Clintonian victim of Arkancide?  Maybe he was silenced by a cabal of famous and powerful visitors to his Pedophile Island who haven't yet had the harsh tabloid light shone upon them and want to make sure it stays that way?  Could it be the doings of James Bond, covering for Prince Andrew?

We'll never know; and if by by accident we someday do know, we'll never know we know because we won't believe that we know.  As with Barack Obama's birth certificate, it doesn't matter what evidence appears now or in the future, there is no possible evidence that is beyond the power of interested parties to fake.

Which raises a possibility that, perhaps uniquely, hasn't been widely considered yet in the press:

What if there is nothing to be known?

You Can't Be Both Omnipotent and Omni-Incompetent

It's widely debated just how wealthy Epstein actually was, but there's no doubt that he led a Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous and that he enjoyed that gilded life in the company of many people who are provably both.  He hung out with royals, with supermodels, with business tycoons (of actual businesses with actual employees, unlike his), with top-ranked elected politicians, and of course with a bevy of nubile under-aged ladies of easy virtue.

He was the very definition of well-connected, which is why nothing is beyond the realm of possibility.  If something physically can be done, somebody of his acquaintance has the power, clout, connections, or cash to see that it is done.

No doubt some number of his erstwhile friends are as incompetent and feckless as we imagine our elites to be - we're looking at you, Prince Andrew!  That's far from true of all of them.  Les Wexner, founder of Victoria's Secret, may be many things but stupid and incompetent he is not.  The same is provably true of Alan Dershowitz, Gov. Bill Richardson (D, NM), Sen. George Mitchell (D, ME), and even Bill Clinton - to say nothing of MIT genius Marvin Minsky.

Let's imagine for one moment that a shadowy cabal of Epstein's erstwhile friends wanted to get rid of him to protect themselves.  So they had him hanged while locked in a cell in a heavily-guarded Federal prison a few days after he was alleged to have attempted to commit suicide all by his lonesome?  After having him mysteriously removed from 24-hour suicide watch contrary to procedure, and also having his cellmate removed contrary to procedure?  What about the AP tweeting that Mr. Epstein's guards falsified the logs and claimed to have checked on him when cameras showed that they hadn't?  And all this happened the very day after testimony was unsealed naming names and making allegations supported by documentary evidence?  They couldn't have disposed of him in a more spectacularly suspicious way if they'd tried!

Anybody this powerful and immoral would certainly have known their own risk all along, been constantly calculating it, and have been kept well-informed as the Epstein news cycle progressed.  Odds are they could have quashed the investigation months ago.  Or, failing that, Epstein's private jet would have had an unfortunate malfunction over the Atlantic so he never made it to New Jersey to get arrested.

This is even more true of a foreign intelligence service.  Real spies are nothing like James Bond: their whole point is to do stuff without anyone even knowing that anything was done, much less how.  The last thing they want is to draw the attention of literally every investigator, official, private, and amateur everywhere on the entire planet for the next fifty years.

We can get more specific.  The recent unsealed testimony by one of Epstein's girls specifically stated that, to her knowledge over many years, neither Donald Trump nor Bill Clinton even looked sideways at anyone under the legal age of 21 - and, in Trump's case, he was never even with Epstein anywhere out of the public view.  Donald Trump wants this testimony to come out and be trumpeted nationwide, as yet another proof of the venality and lies of the Fake News Media.

How about Bill Clinton?  Well, if he's innocent of anything beyond a lecherous gaze, he too would benefit from this sort of testimony.  If he's guilty, it wouldn't be Epstein he'd want to get rid of, it would be the girls involved, a far easier and less risky job.

One of the less-improbable theories of Epstein's wealth is that it's based on theft and that someone felt aggrieved and decided to off him.  Why?  Death is generally considered to be preferable to incarceration as a child predator, whom even other felons consider to be lower than dirt and act accordingly.  Now that Epstein could no longer bribe his way to a cushy not-really-imprisonment, wouldn't anyone who was angry at him want him to suffer for as many decades as possible?  As the saying goes, hanging's too good for him, right?

The elephant hiding camouflaged in the room amid all the Technicolor conspiracy theories is this: there is nobody involved who benefits from Epstein dying how, where, and when he did.  Nobody.

Not only that, the last thing all the "Great" and the "Good" who would have benefited from his shuffling quietly off this mortal coil would want, would be focusing the entire world's intense fascination on everything and anything we can find out about Mr. Epstein's past associations and their activities.  How much would the National Enquirer, to name but one, pay one of his pilots to reveal the salacious details of the flight logs?

Malevolence vs Incompetence

Here's another possibility to ponder: suppose Epstein really did commit suicide?  Fox News quotes a former prison guard as saying that anyone sufficiently determined who's not on suicide watch can commit suicide in any federal prison in 10 minutes or less.

He certainly was rich enough to bribe just about anybody.  It so happens that bribery isn't unheard of at the Metropolitan Correctional Center where he met his Maker:

A handful of criminal prosecutions each year involves corruption among correctional officers at MCC. Last year, one officer pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to smuggling alcohol, cellphones and other contraband for inmates in exchange for more than $25,000 in bribes.

Mr. Epstein, like most of his friends, was far from stupid.  He may very well have realized that the jig was finally up; why not drop a few hundred grand you can't take with you anyway to avoid decades counting cinderblocks and trying not to pick up the soap?  And unlike most of his friends, some low-level night guard might not have the intelligence and self-awareness to realize that now was not the time to give themselves an unofficial raise by helping him commit suicide.

That much, is at least imaginable, but logic argues against it - why would he need help at all?  Yes, the night guard might not realize the implications of a deal with Epstein, but the chief warden of the prison, no matter how corrupt or lazy, has to be at least politically-aware enough to know.  He would also be intelligent enough to want to preserve his pension.  He probably can't be so stupid and blind as to not have read the newspapers and realize that his prison is ripe with corruption.

We've been here before in New York City, with Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall.  For nearly a century, the Tweed ring controlled Democrat politics in the City, and fleeced the taxpaying public.  But, they always knew how far to go, and how far not to go.

So, for example, they made "heap big wampum" by grossly over-billing for construction on the aptly-named Tweed Courthouse.  At the end of the day, though, New York City actually did get a famously beautiful landmark courthouse that is "one of the city's grandest and most important civic monuments."

It's easy to steal.  It's harder to know when to stop stealing before you steal so much that people can't help but notice.  A smart and successful corrupt politician knows this limit by definition; one who doesn't won't get a chance to rise very high before getting nailed.  There's a reason that, by world standards, our lifetime politicos are penniless - yes, even the Clintons are several zeroes short of even second-tier Chinese mandarins.

Eliminating the Impossible, Leaving the Improbable

At this point, it seems like we've logically ruled everything out.

Epstein couldn't have been killed by shadowy powerful figures because anyone that powerful and shadow-loving would know better than to do it in such a spectacular manner.  The same goes for spies.

He wouldn't have been killed by anyone who hated him, since to most people, that would be a happier end for his enemies than the sentence he was likely to get?

He could have bribed a guard for help and killed himself, but any corrupt bureaucrat smart enough to rise to high levels of prison administration would know to make sure his underlings kept their hands out of this particular miscreant's pockets - or at the very least, made sure so many people were watching Epstein so closely that nothing untoward could take place without a half-dozen witness as to what, why, when, how, where, and whom.

If there ever was any doubt that our justice system is corrupt and incompetent from top to bottom, this incident dispels it.  This flagrant display of utter incompetence does nobody in any government any good - not the bureaucrats, not the politicians, not the judges, and not the cops.  Not all of them are smart enough to realize it, but just about all the powerful ones are.

So what's left?  Let's revisit the wisdom of our Founders - James Madison, in Federalist #51:

In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself[emphasis added]

Ponder this thought for a moment: What if our government has grown so large and so sclerotic that it is literally incapable of controlling itself?

Put another way: we all know that the number of people who truly trust our government to "do the right thing most of the time" can be counted on the thumbs of one hand, if that.  What if the members of our government, high and low, now finally recognize the same profound truth?

I've Got No Strings!

We've often discussed the difficulties of firing government employees.  This is true for the President, as it's true for school principals, heads of departments, chiefs of police... and, presumably, heads of prisons.

When lower-ranking members of Tammany Hall got out of line, Boss Tweed could and did see them fired.  Those days are over.

What if the head of the prison no longer has enough clout even to credibly threaten a low-level mildly corrupt flunky?

Attorney General William Barr tells us that "investigators have found 'serious irregularities' at the jail," and, in other news, that the sky is blue and bears go in the woods.  Sen. Ben Sasse (R, NE) tells AG Barr that “heads must roll,” but how, exactly, is that supposed to happen?  It's impossible to fire anybody short of a felony conviction, and extremely difficult even then.

When the VA bureaucracy was found to have falsified waiting times in order to earn fraudulent bonuses, a special law had to be passed to permit them to be fired, and in the end, they all retired early and kept their pensions and the fraudulent bonuses.  The Senator, the AG, the President and We the People can fume until the next election and beyond, but until somebody can be flat-out sacked, which they can't, it's all "sound and fury, signifying nothing."

This week was the week that all America realized that our Justice System, and by extension our government, is no longer worthy of any respect whatsoever.

Even more importantly, this was the week that the government itself realized the same thing.

What did the Emperor do when he realized, understood, and truly believed that he was standing in the town square in the altogether?  Nothing at all.  He kept on walking, determinedly ignoring reality until he could get back to the safety of the castle, the privacy of his boudoir, and the security of his bathrobe.

As long as the Emperor got dressed, learned his lesson, and never again strode the streets starkers, in time the ruckus would blow over and his rule would continue as before - only smarter, and with a better understanding of why certain traditions like clothes are best left alone.  Let's hope our government, and the members thereof, have this degree of wisdom!

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Petrarch or other articles on Bureaucracy.
Reader Comments

Does anyone think that the "Emperor" will actually take the lesson to heart?

August 14, 2019 10:19 PM

Although I completely agree that the government is not to be trusted, actual evidence is leaking out. My husband knows the forensic expert who was standing by when the autopsy was performed, and the fact that they asked someone of his stature to be present indicates that the autopsy results are factually accurate. The breaking of the hyoid bone in particular strongly suggests murder. Epstein told his lawyers that his previous injuries were caused by his cell mate, which is why he was taken off suicide watch. So some facts are hanging together, but I certainly don’t trust the MSM to report them accurately, nor the government to conduct a thorough investigation and then to accurately report the results to the American people.

August 15, 2019 11:18 AM

The pre trial document release will stop or slow down with Epstein's death. Epstein isn't the big fish any more, so the Feds won't make immunity deals with his accomplices in return for their testimony. The trials of underlings may not cover the full scope of Epstein's crimes. The prosecution will be delayed until after the 2020 elections. I think a lot of people had a motive for the killing, including a couple from Arkansas.

August 15, 2019 11:34 AM

Your claim that 'no one' benefits from his death is FALSE-----those in control KILL those who endanger them.

The Circus caused by his death will cover other actions by those who killed him, and if they suffer a few casualties, so be it.

August 15, 2019 11:54 AM

Some "facts" are leaking out. Fox News quotes the autopsy doctor:


Fox News medical contributor Dr. Marc Siegel said Thursday that it's "more likely" Jeffrey Epstein's death was a homicide rather than a suicide, following a full autopsy of Epstein's body that reportedly found broken bones in his neck.

"The hyoid bone in the neck being fractured and other fractures in the neck, make it more likely, and again, this is a percentage call, more likely that it was a homicide than a suicide," Siegel said during an interview on "America's Newsroom."

Siegel said he is still waiting for more information before rendering a final opinion, but expressed suspicion and skepticism about the details surrounding Epstein's death.

"It can either be a suicide or a homicide still... I am now more suspicious than ever that this could be a homicide," he said.

"If someone is attacked, you see signs of the attack on the body... It hasn't been released yet. I'm waiting to see that."

August 15, 2019 5:58 PM

This is shaping up as a battle between the Blue State Model ( govt unions rule) and Trump&Barrs red state legal view. Pretty clear with vacating guards and sleepy wardens that a higher ( Democratic ) power was in charge. Clearly Epstein with his choice of pals and donations was on the Dem side. I assume the testimony of the lady who ran through the 1990’ s and early 2000’s prominent Democrats as arranged companions is basically accurate. Assume this would not help the Dems 2020 chances. So, prevail on fellow union members to “ arrange” things. Can Barr unravel it ?

August 15, 2019 7:57 PM

The really sad part is that the incompetenct and petty crookedness which you've written about has been going on for decades and nobody has cared.



The scandal is not a few rogue employees. The surprise is not that a man in federal custody who had shown suicidal tendencies managed to kill himself, nor conversely that a man could be killed behind bars. Barr and his DOJ (like previous DOJ officials) knew MCC was structured on “irregularities.” So did U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, and his predecessor, Preet Bharara. So did the judges of the Southern District of New York. The federal prison system is replete with “irregularities.”

The real scandal is that the horrors of MCC have existed for decades, hidden in plain sight. The journalist Aviva Stahl published a searing exposé last year in Gothamist on conditions at MCC that documented the filth, rodents, overflowing sewage, deeply substandard medical care, wrenching isolation, and often indifferent—and at times, cruel—staff. From reports from lawyers and people imprisoned there, to the legal motions they have filed attempting to mitigate the inhumane conditions, to the hundreds of administrative remedies prisoners have filled out to request remediation (the first step prisoners must take to document problems with their conditions), to the research of scholars and human-rights organizations, the abusive and corrupt conditions at MCC are well documented.

But a broad swath of public officials, from the attorney general on down, have chosen to countenance these conditions—and major news organizations haven’t pressed the issue. As attention finally came to the despicable conditions at Rikers, few journalists looked across the river to MCC. Perhaps many labored under the misapprehension that while state and local (and private) jails might be mismanaged, abusive, and decrepit, the federal government runs a largely rights-respecting, clean operation. On top of this, the federal government—and the Bureau of Prisons in particular—makes it supremely difficult to investigate its prisons and jails, constantly throwing up justifications for denying access to the materials researchers want (“too burdensome,” “ national security,” “privacy,” “internal agency workings”) and shrouding their practices in secrecy .

When news about MCC reaches the public, it typically comes in sensational stories about alleged mega-criminals such as Epstein, Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, or Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzman being held there—the crimes with which they are charged completely obscuring the jail itself. Moreover, while Americans broadly profess to oppose torture and cruelty, there’s a tendency to look away from (or even take some glee in) the abusive conditions facing incarcerated people, particularly those who are publicly reviled.

I don’t know why the overwhelming majority of journalists I talked with over the years never published serious investigations into MCC. Perhaps racialized assumptions played a role, separating victims of government abuse whose situations seemed urgent and worthy of months of painstaking research from those who are assumed to pose exceptional danger and thus perhaps deserve extreme measures. I was highlighting the inhumane conditions that largely unknown Muslims facing terrorism charges were experiencing at MCC. Now they are calling me about the über-rich, white Jeffrey Epstein.

Or perhaps it was the simple incongruity of the U.S. government running a high-rise dungeon in Manhattan’s financial district, which featured conditions more commonly associated with the jails of foreign dictatorships. The descriptions of the dirty, decrepit, vermin-infested, hyper-isolating jail sitting in an elite zip code never seemed to stick.

The public attention to Epstein’s suicide could change that—but only if the public [sees] the structural problems that Epstein’s time at MCC exposes.

August 16, 2019 12:32 PM

Well, the other show has dropped, so they say, but there is a critical reveal in the last sentence.

Jeffrey Epstein’s official autopsy confirms he hanged himself in jail cell


An official autopsy shows that Jeffrey Epstein killed himself by hanging, authorities said Friday.

The 66-year-old pedophile died in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan last week, according to findings by the city Medical Examiner’s Office.

The multimillionaire was being held on federal sex-trafficking raps that could have sent him to prison for 45 years.

The autopsy and other evidence confirmed Epstein committed suicide, the ME’s office said without elaborating.

Officials said earlier this week the autopsy had been completed but that the medical examiner needed “further information” before determining Epstein’s official cause of death.

Hah. The autopsy has been completed but the examineeds "further information" to determine the OFFICAL cause of death?

What possible "further information" might be needed once the autopsy had been completed?

The examiner is SUPPOSED to take the body and discern all relevant information from it regardless of circumstances of the death. Having done that, why, pray, would the examiner need “further information?”

Only to get the word from On High what to put down as the "official" cause of death, right?

August 16, 2019 7:37 PM

It gets curioser and curioser. Note the very last sentence:


Jeffrey Epstein was confident he could fight the child sex trafficking charges against him and was in “great spirits” just hours before his jailhouse death on Saturday morning — even telling one of his lawyers, “I’ll see you Sunday,” The Post has learned.

The convicted pedophile also told his lawyers that the neck injuries he suffered in an earlier incident at the Metropolitan Correctional Center were inflicted by his hulking, ex-cop cellmate, which led the lawyers to request that he be taken off a suicide watch, according to a source familiar with Epstein’s case.

Epstein’s optimism behind bars — expressed during daily visits with his lawyers that lasted up to 12 hours each — was so great that it struck some of those around him as “delusional,” the source said.

“He thought he was going to win the double-jeopardy motion” that his defense lawyers were planning to file in connection with his 2008 Florida prostitution conviction, the source said.

The multimillionaire — who was jailed in Lower Manhattan on orders from a judge who cited his “uncontrollable” sexual urges — also “had hope of getting bail on appeal,” the source said, through an application that was pending before the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals at the time of his death.

“What he really wanted to do was get bail so he could cooperate,” the source said.

August 17, 2019 3:07 PM
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