Patterico's Pontifications


The Moment a Soon-to-Be-Released Book Crashes and Burns [Updated]

Filed under: General — JVW @ 1:33 pm

[guest post by JVW]

Celebrity feminist author Naomi Wolf has a new book scheduled to publish next month. Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalization of Love covers the steps taken to persecute homosexuality in the first decades of Queen Victoria’s reign, and advances the argument that these measures extended throughout the entire British Empire, past and present. From the publisher’s blurb:

Until 1857, the State [sic] did not link the idea of “homosexuality” to deviancy. In the same year, the concept of the “obscene” was coined. New York Times best-selling author Naomi Wolf’s Outrages is the story, brilliantly told, of why this two-pronged State repression took hold — first in England and spreading quickly to America — and why it was attached so dramatically, for the first time, to homosexual men.

Before 1857 it wasn’t “homosexuality” that was a crime, but simply the act of sodomy. But in a single stroke, not only was love between men illegal, but anything referring to this love became obscene, unprintable, unspeakable. [. . .]

So in preparation for the book’s publication, Ms. Wolf has embarked upon the obligatory publicity tour. This brought her to BBC Radio where she was interviewed by the historian Matthew Sweet. And this is where it got bad for the American author. The entire interview can be found at the BBC’s website, and here is an exchange between the two, starting roughly at the 21:00 mark with context beginning around 19:00, highlighting a significant problem with her thesis (transcribed by me, so my fault for any mistakes; all emphasis added is mine except as noted):

MS. WOLF: [speaking of convictions for homosexual acts after the 1857 law had been enacted] You get sentences, as I mentioned, of penal servitude for ten or fifteen years and I found several dozen executions, but that was again only looking at the Old Bailey records and the crime tables —

MR. SWEET: [interrupting] Several dozen executions?

MS. WOLF: Correct. And this corrects a misapprehension that is in every website that the last man was executed for sodomy in Britain in 1835.

MR. SWEET: I don’t think you’re right about this. One of the cases that you look at, that is salient in your report, is that of Thomas Silva. It [her book] says: “teenagers were now convicted more often, and indeed in that year” — which is 1859 — “fourteen year-old Thomas Silva was actually executed for committing sodomy. The boy was indicted for an unnatural offense, guilty, death recorded. This is the first time the phrase ‘unnatural offense’ was entered into the Old Bailey records.”

MR. SWEET [continuing]: Thomas Silva wasn’t executed. Death recorded — I was really surprised by this, and I looked it up — “death recorded” is in most of these cases that you’ve identified as executions. It doesn’t mean that he was executed. It was a category that was created in 1823 that allowed judges to abstain from pronouncing sentences of death on any capital convict whom the judged to be a fit subject for pardon. I don’t think any of the executions you’ve identified here actually happened.

MS. WOLF: Well, that’s a really important thing to investigate. [. . .]

The interviewer, an actual historian, then goes on to explain that he had found a newspaper article indicating that the jury had recommended Thomas Silva be treated mercifully on account of his youth, and that Mr. Silva was eventually set free after serving his prison term. And, oh, by the way, Thomas Silva was not found guilty of having consensual “unnatural relations” with some fellow pubescent; he was found guilty of raping a six-year-old boy, and he served a mere 30 months in prison for the crime. And what’s more, it would seem that finding the full meaning of “death recorded” was as easy as spending a few minutes on the Old Bailey website, not some dogged task that would have entailed weeks or months in the court’s archives. And then, the coup de grâce:

MR. SWEET: I wonder about the others [the examples of men cited by Ms. Wolf with the “death recorded” status who allegedly did nothing more than engage in homosexual relations], because all the others that I followed up, I can’t find any evidence that any of these relationships that you described were consensual. The other one you offer us, James Spencer, a sixty-year-old tutor, he was a teacher who committed what was described as “felonious assault on schoolboys.” One of these cases you offer is a bestiality case and not a buggery case. So I think there is a problem here with this argument.

MS. WOLF: I mean, I certainly will ask for the sources that you have. I mean, I was going by the Old Bailey records and the regional crime tables, but if there is [sic] further details to be added–

MR. SWEET: [interrupting] Well that’s how I got this, through that same portal. I mean, the problem is that the Old Bailey record doesn’t give you any detail at all; it’s just names and then the verdict. So there’s no — you don’t get any sense — and there’s nothing that I have seen that shows you what these relationships were. And I wonder whether — and as I say I can’t see evidence that any [original emphasis] of them were definitely consensual romantic relationships.

MS. WOLF: Well there I do have to argue with you. . .

MR. SWEET: Please do.

MS. WOLF: . . . because I included in this version of the book selective cases [original emphasis], and if additional details show that this kid was not actually executed, that death recorded does–

MR. SWEET: [interrupting] It means the opposite!

MS. WOLF: So that’s really, I mean, that’s really important. And I need to investigate that and update the book accordingly, and thank you so much for calling it to my attention.

Ouch. Just ouch.

The book was scheduled for publication on June 18. The sound you just heard is a book publisher pulling a print-run from the printer (assuming the book hasn’t already been printed and bound; if it has, then it’s going straight to the recycling bin), firing an entire editorial team, and cancelling an author’s contract.

Naomi Wolf has carved out a nice career for herself as a comely feminist intellectual (whose first book carried the subtext of how difficult it is to be an attractive female in a professional setting, literally the least compelling argument that can be made by a young looker like Ms. Wolf), but she has long been dogged with allegations of sloppy research and bogus, ideologically-driven facts.
Even her political allies seem to have grown tired of her act. It’s a long way from being a top advisor on women’s issues to Bill Clinton and Al Gore, but with this latest fiasco Ms. Wolf, almost three decades after emerging on to the scene, may have finally immolated what was left of her career with this colossal blunder.

UPDATE: The publisher, Houghton-Mifflin/Harcourt, is in a real pickle. They are publicly saying that they can still issue the book with corrections without obliterating Ms. Wolf’s original thesis, but (admittedly not having read the book and only going on the description) I don’t see how that can be done.


AP: Utah judge suspended for making anti-Trump comments

Filed under: Law,Politics — DRJ @ 11:49 am

[Headline from DRJ]

APUtah judge suspended for making anti-Trump comments

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A longtime Utah judge has been suspended without pay for six months for comments he made online and in court criticizing President Donald Trump, including a post bashing his “inability to govern and political incompetence.”

Judge Michael Kwan’s numerous posts on Facebook and LinkedIn in 2016-2017 criticizing Trump violated the judicial code of conduct and diminished “the reputation of our entire judiciary,” wrote Utah State Supreme Court Justice John A. Pearce in an opinion posted Wednesday. His Facebook account was private, but could have been shared by friends, Pearce wrote.


Harriet Tubman on $20 Bill Won’t Happen Until Trump Is Out Of Office

Filed under: General — Dana @ 7:01 am

[guest post by Dana]

In 2016, Donald Trump appeared on The Today Show and claimed during an interview that replacing Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on a $20 bill was a “P.C. move”:

“Andrew Jackson had a great history,” Trump told the Today show when asked about the president most infamous for genocidal actions against Native Americans. “I think it’s very rough when you take somebody off the bill. Andrew Jackson had a history of tremendous success for the country.”

Asked whether he’s a fan of Tubman’s, however, the GOP frontrunner said she’s “fantastic,” but that “I would love to leave Andrew Jackson [on the $20] and see if we can maybe come up with another denomination [for Tubman]—maybe we do the $2 bill or another bill.”

Not content to end it there, Trump continued: “I don’t like seeing it. I think it’s pure political correctness. [Jackson] has been on the bill for many, many years and really represented somebody that was really very important to this country.”

Ugh. Of course, by this time in the campaign, Trump he had already successfully tapped into his base and validated their anger, frustration and belief that they had been left behind. He knew what to say to rally supporters.

Thus it was unsurprising that at the House Financial Services Committee hearing, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said that the redesigned $20 bill with Harriet Tubman’s likeness on it would be “delayed” until 2028, long after President Trump is out of office (because we all know that it takes the most advanced nation in the world eight years to redesign a $20 bill):

The redesign of the $20 bill featuring Harriet Tubman will no longer be unveiled in 2020, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday.

The unveiling had been timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. Mnuchin said the design process has been delayed and no new imagery will be unveiled until 2028.

“The primary reason we have looked at redesigning the currency is for counterfeiting issues,” Mnuchin said in response to questions by Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., during a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee. “Based upon this, the $20 bill will now not come out until 2028. The $10 bill and the $50 bill will come out with new features beforehand.”

Seriously?? Stop pretending we don’t see through this charade. Make the $20 bill the priority! Especially as $20 bills are in wider circulation than the $10 bill or $50 bill.

Interestingly, while there hasn’t been confirmation by officials that President Trump made the actual decision about delaying the the Tubman $20 bill, Mnuchin was apparently concerned that the President might cancel the new bill altogether:

Treasury Department officials did not say whether Mr. Trump had a hand in the decision, and Mr. Mnuchin would not say whether he himself believes that Tubman should be on the bill’s face. “I’ve made no decision as it relates to that,” Mr. Mnuchin said Wednesday at a congressional hearing in response to a question from Representative Ayanna S. Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts.


Mr. Mnuchin, concerned that the president might create an uproar by canceling the new bill altogether, was eager to delay its redesign until Mr. Trump was out of office, some senior Treasury Department officials have said.

By now everyone has their opinion of whether Trump is a racist or just an unfiltered blowhard looking to cut his next deal, increase him status, increase his bank account and increase the name Trump . With any other president, I would say that it’s hard to see how Mnuchin’s announcement could have a positive impact on re-election efforts, and on the GOP as a whole. However, in this case, I’m sad to say that I’m not so sure anymore.

On a purely political note: There is an important election just around the corner. Trump is running for a second term, Trump needs votes and he needs to take advantage of any opportunity that comes his way to increase voter turnout and grow his support. Making the bill happen post-haste was a no-brainer. But instead of jumping on the opportunity, President Trump foolishly missed out on the golden opportunity served to him on a silver platter. Making sure that the Harriet Tubman redesign wouldn’t be unveiled during his tenure, along with his previous praise of Andrew Jackson and relegation of the famed abolitionist and freed slave to the $2 bill is a distasteful and underhanded signal to his base. Convince me I’m wrong.

Anyway, in retrospect, this naivete by Mnuchin’s predecessor is laughable:

WHEN THEN-TREASURY Secretary Jack Lew decided in 2016 to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, he knew it would be up to the next administration to implement the change. But it seemed highly unlikely that anyone would upend a plan to honor this great American hero with a currency redesign that would also include depictions of historic events such as the suffragist march on Washington. “I don’t think somebody’s going to probably want to do that — to take the image of Harriet Tubman off of our money? To take the image of the suffragists off?” Mr. Lew said incredulously.

I’ll leave you with a photograph of this powerful mural depicting Harriet Tubman. It was painted by artist Michael Rosato on the wall of the Harriet Tubman Museum & Education Center in the city of Cambridge. It was completed just this week.


And this is for Beldar:


(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


BBC: Tearful Theresa May resigns

Filed under: Politics — DRJ @ 3:40 am

[Headline from DRJ]

BBCTearful Theresa May resigns:

Theresa May has announced she will step down as Conservative Party leader on 7 June.

She broke down in tears as she said serving as prime minister was “the honour of my life”


Jussie Smollett Headlines

Filed under: Crime,Law — DRJ @ 3:38 am

[Headlines from DRJ]

Chicago Sun Times Judge unseals records in Jussie Smollett case

The “Empire” actor’s public comments about the case showed he was not concerned about his privacy after controversial decision to dismiss all charges, the judge ruled


Fox News: Onetime Michelle Obama staffer evades subpoena in Smollett-Foxx case, process server says


LA TIMES: Weinstein reaches $44 million settlement

Filed under: Crime — DRJ @ 3:29 am

[Headline from DRJ]

LA Times: Harvey Weinstein reaches $44 million settlement with accusers and …

Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has reached a tentative $44 million settlement …


LAW & CRIME: The Julian Assange Superseding Indictment

Filed under: Crime,Law,War — DRJ @ 3:12 am

[Headline from DRJ]

Law & Crime: Top Legal Takeaways on the Implications of the Julian Assange Superseding Indictment

Conversation and commentary immediately centered on the First Amendment implications of the charges. Since it is true that there has “never previously been a successful prosecution of a third party (as opposed to the leaker)” under the Espionage Act, the case is shaping up to be a “major test case of whether the First Amendment protects the right to publish,” University of Texas Law Prof. Steve Vladeck explained.

As Vladeck noted, the issue here–and this is why there are plenty of journalists sounding the alarm–is that the Espionage Act “doesn’t distinguish between what Assange allegedly did and what mainstream outlets sometimes do, even if the underlying facts/motives are radically different.”
National security lawyer Bradley P. Moss told Law&Crime that if the DOJ actually prosecutes Assange and gets a conviction the chilling effect on media outlets will be very real.


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