Open Thread: Time Travel As Cultural Barometer

Leon Trotsky once wrote, “Art, it is said, is not a mirror, but a hammer: it does not reflect, it shapes.” I suspect that this phenomenon is more intense in works of speculative fiction* than, say, spy thrillers. These stories are well-positioned to plumb and amplify the pressing issues and paranoias of their times; more to the point, they often offer high-concept utopian solutions, be they progressive or reactionary.

So I was amused to see the Guardian ask: Why are there so many new books about time-travelling lesbians?

In 2016, I sat down with my co-author Max Gladstone to write our novel This Is How You Lose the Time War, which follows two time-travelling female spies as they fall in love. That same year was also when I first heard people speaking earnestly and frequently about feeling as if they were in the wrong timeline, as the Brexit referendum results rolled in and Donald Trump was elected US president.

[…] But our novel is just one of several recent stories of queer women time-travelling. There is Kate Heartfield’s Nebula-nominated novella Alice Payne Arrives and its sequel Alice Payne Rides, which see two 18th-century women – lovers – become embroiled in a war. There are also Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade, Kate Mascarenhas’s The Psychology of Time Travel, Kelly Robson’s Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach and Annalee Newitz’s The Future of Another Timeline.

[…] I wrote to each of these authors in anticipation of this piece and it turns out we were all drafting our books in 2016.

The article is a quick and a good read. I haven’t picked up This Is How You Lose the Time War yet, but it’s near the top of my list. I did read two books last year that featured time-traveling lesbians, though, just chewing through a random pile of space opera.

This article reminded me of a fun piece on Doctor Who**, which found that the Doctor was significantly more likely to overthrow the government during the Thatcher era. Read more

We’ll get to “votes were changed” eventually…

Remember how the reporting on Russian intel’s attempt at US vote-diddling began? On Twitter, Soonergrunt sums it up:

First it was “they never got into any states”
Then it was “they got in but couldn’t access voter info”
Then it was “they saw voter info but couldn’t do anything.”
Now it’s “they could but didn’t do anything”
Next it’s…

“They could but didn’t” is where we are now, according to reporting from The Times on a Senate Intelligence Committee report released yesterday:

While details of many of the hackings directed by Russian intelligence, particularly in Illinois and Arizona, are well known, the committee’s report describes a Russian intelligence effort more far-reaching than the federal government has previously acknowledged. It concluded that while there is no evidence that any votes were changed in actual voting machines, “Russian cyberactors were in a position to delete or change voter data” in the Illinois voter database. The committee found no evidence that they did so. While the report is not directly critical of either American intelligence agencies or the states, it described what amounted to a cascading intelligence failure, in which the scope of the Russian effort was underestimated, warnings to the states were too muted, and state officials either underreacted or, in some cases, resisted federal efforts to offer help.

The next shoe will drop. Eventually.

Special Counsel Mueller’s Testimony Before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Live Stream

Here’s the live stream of Special Counsel Mueller testifying before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Just a quick note about all the hot takes on how Special Counsel Mueller performed this morning to keep in mind as he testifies this afternoon:

Mueller was, and will be again this afternoon, the quintessential example of a career DOJ official. He says no more than he feels he should and that’s it. He also now has serious old man voice. Together this presents as visually reticent to befuddled, but it isn’t. You’ll notice when he’s had his team’s integrity impugned, he’s been more animated. No disrespect to Jeremy Bash, but he’s a political appointee, not someone whose made a career in National Security positions of different types. His understanding and approach and expectation of how you respond to these things is different than the one Mueller learned and has abided by during his long career first as a civil servant and then as an appointed senior leader. And Frank Figliuzzi’s explanation of this reality was spot on. The news media screaming that he didn’t give them the juicy media clips they want is just garbage. Finally, this format that the committee’s use for these hearings wasn’t and isn’t designed to actually produce detailed, delineated, thoughtful responses. If the Democrats on the committee, or Democrats in Congress, or anyone else wanted that, then committee counsel should have been given the first two hours, 1/2 hours each rotation for the Democratic and Republican counsels, to ask appropriate questions and elicit detailed answers in follow ups. The final hour to 90 minutes could be reserved for individual member questions. Optimally, the whole hearing would have been done by the committee counsel and the members would have sat there and taken notes.

Open thread!

This Is The Key Takeaway From Special Counsel Mueller’s Testimony Before the House Judiciary Committee

It all comes down to the last ten seconds of this 34 second clip:

The questioner is Congressman Ken Buck (R-CO District 4). He’s a former prosecutor, so he should have known not to ask a question he didn’t already know the answer to. There is, of course, argument over whether the Special Counsel was speaking specifically about the President or hypothetically and generally about any president once they are out of office and the Office of Legal Counsel guidance that a sitting president cannot be indicted would no longer apply. Regardless, this should be the focus of Democratic information operations going forward. Just the last ten to twenty seconds of this clip, hammered over and over and over again. In TV advertisements, in radio advertisements, on social media and in Internet based advertisements, and every time a Democratic candidate for president or Federal office, or a Democratic elected official, or their surrogates are asked about the outcome of Mueller’s investigation.

And it should be paired with this 20 second clip of Congressman Lieu (D-CA District 33):

We can wait and see what this afternoon’s House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearings with Special Counsel may bring.

Also, here’s bonus footage of Congressman Gaetz (R-FL District 1/Overstimulated) preparing for this morning’s hearing:

Open thread!

Breaking! Jeffrey Epstein Arrested in New York For Allegedly Sex Trafficking Minors

From The Daily Beast:

Billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein was arrested for allegedly sex trafficking dozens of minors in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005, and will appear in court in New York on Monday, according to three law enforcement sources. The arrest, by the FBI-NYPD Crimes Against Children Task Force, comes about 12 years after the 66-year-old financier essentially got a slap on the wrist for allegedly molesting dozens of underage girls in Florida.

For more than a decade, Epstein’s alleged abuse of minors has been the subject of lawsuits brought by victims, investigations by local and federal authorities, and exposés in the press. But despite the attention cast on his alleged sex crimes, the hedge-funder has managed to avoid any meaningful jail time, let alone federal charges.

The new indictment—which, according to two sources, will be unsealed Monday in Manhattan federal court—will reportedly allege that Epstein sexually exploited dozens of underage girls in a now-familiar scheme: paying them cash for “massages” and then molesting or sexually abusing them in his Upper East Side mansion or his palatial residence in Palm Beach. Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors—which could put him away for a maximum of 45 years. The case is being handled by the Public Corruption Unit of the Southern District of New York, with assistance from the district’s human-trafficking officials and the FBI.

Several of the billionaire’s employees and associates allegedly recruited the girls for Epstein’s abuse, and some victims eventually became recruiters themselves, according to law enforcement. The girls were as young as 14, and Epstein knew they were underage, according to details of the arrest and indictment shared by two officials.

Epstein’s attorney Martin Weinberg declined to comment when reached by The Daily Beast on Saturday night. The SDNY also declined to comment.

“It’s been a long time coming—it’s been too long coming,” said attorney David Boies, who represents Epstein accusers Virginia Roberts Giuffre and Sarah Ransome. “It is an important step towards getting justice for the many victims of Mr. Epstein’s sex trafficking enterprise.

“We hope that prosecutors will not stop with Mr. Epstein because there were many other people who participated with him and made the sex trafficking possible,” he told The Daily Beast.

None of this would be possible without Julie K. Brown’s reporting at The Miami Herald, which reignited interest in Epstein, his crimes, his co-conspirators, his enablers, and his protectors by giving a public voice to some of his victims who were cheated out of their chance for justice by current Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta.

Epstein’s arrest and pending indictment is going to have massive repercussions within the US, as well as in other countries. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, in response to legal intervention made by Brown, has recently ordered the unsealing of 167 pages of documents in a lawsuit brought by one of Epstein’s victims, Virginia L. Guiffre, in her attempts to get Epstein’s sentence overturned so that she and her fellow victims can seek actual justice, as opposed to the sweetheart deal that Epstein received. Here’s the link to the 2nd Circuit’s order. Lisette Voytko at Forbes explains:

A federal appeals court Wednesday ordered that 167 documents in a lawsuit that alleges famously well-connected financier Jeffrey Epstein participated in a sex-trafficking ring should be unsealed—and that many of his powerful friends could be named.

  • In its 27-page decision, the court cited the public’s right to access the case information outweighed the privacy of certain individuals, “including numerous prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well‐known Prime Minister, and other world leaders.”
  • Virginia Guiffre (now Roberts) filed the lawsuit against Ghislane Maxwell, alleging that she had used her as part of a sex trafficking network of underage girls to Epstein and a number of his famous friends, including his lawyer Alan Dershowitz and Prince Andrew. Both men denied the accusations.
  • Dershowitz has supported unsealing the documents, according to the Daily Beast.
  • The documents will not be immediately available, as anonymous individuals involved in the case have two weeks to file appeals.
  • The court advised the documents be read carefully. “We therefore urge the media to exercise restraint in covering potentially defamatory allegations, and we caution the public to read such accounts with discernment,” wrote the court in its decision.

Those 167 documents contain up to 2,000 pages of material! This has the potential to expose a lot of powerful men in the US and elsewhere. Democrats, Republicans, politicians, businessmen, as well as other elites and/or notables. And, most likely as was the case with Ghislaine Maxwell, some women who enabled or covered up this crime spree as well. Regardless of whose ox gets gored as a result of Epstein’s pending indictment on Monday and the forthcoming release of the court documents from Guiffre’s suit, we should all be pleased that these women are one step closer to justice that has been too long denied.

Open thread!