Sentencing Sexting

On Monday former Congressman Anthony Weiner was sentenced to spend 21 months in federal prison for sexting with a minor.  He broke down and cried when the sentence was delivered.  Weiner, who had pleaded guilty to the offense, also was fined $10,000, will have to register as a sex offender, and will be subject to three years of supervised release after his prison term ends.

anthony-weiner-e4a324c0-fc5d-49b2-ac42-0b7f99f8b6e5Weiner’s lawyers had argued that he should receive only probation, contending that the case involved unusual facts and circumstances and that Weiner had made “remarkable progress” through participation in a treatment program for the past year.  After the sentence was announced, the lawyers contended that the punishment was more severe than it had to be.

The federal judge explained her sentence by noting that sexting with a minor is “a serious crime that deserves serious punishment.”  She added that Weiner’s notoriety was an significant part of the sentence — because people have paid attention to his conduct and his case, the sentence provided an opportunity to send a message that could change lives.  And Weiner could have received even more prison time.  The offense to which he pleaded guilty carries a maximum prison term of 10 years, and the sentence imposed by the judge was at the low end of the range suggested by federal prosecutors.

I think the judge got this one exactly right.  Weiner’s record of repetitive misbehavior shows an escalating pattern, and his conduct with the 15-year-old girl was reprehensible.  And it is important to use the sentence to send a message, on several levels — it not only notifies people that sexting with a minor will be sternly punished, but also shows that the politically powerful are subject to justice to the same extent as the rest of us.  In a time when politicians seem increasingly to live in their own secure little bubbles, distant and disconnected from the real world, the message that they will be held accountable for their illegal actions is an especially important one.

Provocative Junk Mail “Re” Lines

We have a “junk mail” filter at work.  Most of the time, the filter just moves what is obvious spam into a “junk mail” folder without me looking at the email or doing anything to it.

donald-trump-money-worth_2015-11-16_19-44-39Sometimes, though — for reasons not known to me — particular junk mail will make it through the filter and be brought to my attention under the heading “Incoming Message Quarantined by Web Reputation Monitor.”  I’m not sure whether the filter concludes that such emails are more likely to be legitimate, or because they come from more plausible email addresses, or some other reason.  In any case, I recently got one of those messages, checked to make sure that the email wasn’t sent by somebody I know, and then stopped dead when I saw the “re” line:  “Trump reveals groundbreaking secrets to triple your income.”

Of course, I didn’t try to open that spammy email . . . but I have to admit I was sorely tempted.  Aren’t you curious about what income-tripling tips “Trump” might offer?  Tips like:  Be sure to inherit millions from your parents?  Become a reality TV show star?  Contribute to the political campaigns of every candidate for every office, regardless of their party affiliation, so you have ready access to the levers of power?  Make liberal use of the American bankruptcy laws?  Invest in “Man Tan” franchises?

Having seen the Trump income-tripling “re” line, I found myself thinking of other spam email “re” lines that would just be too tantalizing to pass up.  Here are a few that I came up with:

“Hillary Clinton’s Guide to Data Security and Personal Ethics”

“Rappers and Buddhism:  A Perfect Combination”

“Choosing A Soul Mate The Anthony Weiner Way”

“Personal Humility in the NFL”

I’m sure there are others.

Anthony Weiner Turns Up, Again

Just when you think — and fervently hope — that we’ve finally heard the last of Anthony Weiner, he turns up in the news again.  He’s the proverbial bad penny on the national political scene.

160922-anthony-weiner-featureWhen the world learned recently that Weiner was “sexting” with a 15-year-old girl, I didn’t write about it because, frankly, I think enough attention has been paid to a guy who is obviously a disturbed and narcissistic loser.  He clearly wants attention of some kind or another, so why feed the creep’s ego?  But now the investigation into Weiner’s texting with an underage girl has shaken up the presidential campaign, just when we thought it was about over.  In their investigation of Weiner, the FBI seized his laptop, as well as his iPad and cell phone — and yesterday FBI director James Comey sent a letter to Congress stating that, in that unrelated investigation, the agency found emails that relate in some way to their investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email practices.  The New York Times is reporting that the FBI found tens of thousands of emails involving Huma Abedin, a long-time Hillary Clinton aide who is married to (and now estranged from) Weiner.

There’s not a lot of information about the emails on Weiner’s server.  Comey’s letter to Congress says only that he felt he needed to supplement his prior congressional testimony that the investigation into Clinton’s email server was completed, that the FBI has now learned of emails “that appear to be pertinent to the investigation,” that Comey had been briefed on the findings, and that he agreed it was appropriate for agents to determine whether they contain classified information.  The letter concluded that the FBI can’t yet assess whether the emails on Weiner’s laptop are significant, or when the FBI will finish reviewing them.  

So we don’t know much about the emails right now and, given the pace of the FBI’s prior investigation, we probably won’t know much more until after the election is over — which is why some people are criticizing the FBI director for calling attention to the issue at all.  The disclosure obviously roiled the presidential campaign at a crucial time, with less than two weeks to go.  I would note only that I appreciate the fact that the FBI director obviously takes his obligation to truthful in his testimony to Congress so seriously.

I’m not going to speculate about what might, or might not, be found in the emails.  I’m just going to groan at the fact that we have to hear about Anthony Weiner, again — and hope that we don’t learn that this creepy, apparently sex-obsessed jerk had any kind of significant national security information on his laptop.  Anthony Weiner is about the last person I’d want to have access to sensitive information.

Weiner Rolled

Here is some good news:  disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner limped home to finish fifth in the New York City Democratic mayoral primary, getting less than 5 percent of the vote.

Why is it good news?  Because it not only shows that voters have good judgment, it hows that maybe — just maybe — we’ve gotten past the point where politicians and sports figures and celebrities are immediately forgiven by the American people simply because they appear in public and express regret for their appalling actions.

Weiner was repeatedly confronted by disgusted voters during his campaign, he was forced to admit that he had continued his misconduct even after he resigned from Congress, and he sank like a stone in the polls.  He was (or should be, at least) further embarrassed by his ill-advised reentry into politics and held accountable for his bad behavior, his previous lies, and his stunning willingness to expose his wife to even more humiliation.  (And, to top things off, another disgraced New York politician, Elliot Spitzer, also lost in his attempt to get back into politics.)

Some people may think these comments are unfair piling on a man who is down, and we should forgive and forget.  I understand that perspective, but I am fed up with people who abuse the public trust and then trade on their misconduct to achieve heightened fame and fortune and end up making jokes about their prior misdeeds on late-night talk shows.  I hope no network offers Weiner a “news” program in hopes that his notorious status will attract viewers.  I hope Saturday Night Live doesn’t recruit him to host a show.  I hope no reputable publisher will print a sugar-coated confessional.

I’m perfectly content to let Anthony Weiner live his life — but he should do so out of the public eye, without constantly looking to benefit from his past errors.

Weiner Comes Cleaner

Hey, that Anthony Weiner sure was a busy and hard-charging fellow!  He’s now admitted that, even after he resigned from Congress in disgrace for lying about sending sex-soaked texts, he sent additional sex-related photos and texts to a woman he met on-line.

That’s exactly why Anthony Weiner would be such a great Mayor for New York City!  When he’s decided on a course of action, he’ll continue to pursue it, no matter the devastating consequences!  And, unlike some of the old fogey candidates in the race, Anthony Weiner knows all about social media.  Why, he even uses social media sites few people have heard of, like Formspring.  Who better to identify with the youth of New York City than someone so adept at delving into all of the ways that the internet can be used for meaningful interpersonal communication?

Well, his wife Huma Abedin — who’s also a politico — says she’s forgiven him for his many indiscretions and worked hard to put their marriage back together.  They’re moving forward, she says — so why shouldn’t New York City move forward with them?  C’mon, Gothamites — how can you hold anything against a guy who’s apologized multiple times for engaging in weird, self-destructive, bizarro behavior?  If he’s elected and makes the kinds of mistakes that mayors typically make, you can at least be sure that he knows how to apologize for his stupid stunts.

It is an absolute embarrassment not only for New York City, but for anyone in America, that a person like Anthony Weiner is running for mayor of a major American city.  He was actually contending in some polls before these most recent revelations.  Seriously, how can anybody even be considering voting for this guy? Doesn’t character count for anything anymore?  Wake up, NYC!

Hoping For More Heckling

I’m not generally a fan of heckling, except when I am.  Take, for example, the pointed questions being posed to Anthony Weiner, who has launched an ill-advised campaign for Mayor of New York City.

What a surprise!  Some people think Weiner — the jerky former Congressman who tried to intimidate and lie his way out of a sexting scandal — is unfit to lead America’s most important city.  It’s hilarious that Weiner wants people to focus on his “ideas.”  How about this for an idea:  New Yorkers are entitled to a Mayor who isn’t a bald-faced liar.

The Politicker report linked above reports that the New Yorkers attending a candidate’s forum posed two really good questions:  first, why is it that every candidate for Mayor of New York City needs to apologize; and second, why don’t people like Weiner who have had their chance and disgraced themselves have the decency to get out of the way and let some new voices be heard?  I think those are eminently fair questions.  I hope New Yorkers keep asking those questions, again and again and again, until Anthony Weiner does the decent thing and slinks back into the anonymity he so richly deserves.

Voting For A Liar

Anthony Weiner has declared that he is running for Mayor of New York.  You’ll no doubt remember him.  He’s the former Congressman who sent compromising photos of himself via text message, then lied about what he had done and kept stringing out the lie, to an increasingly skepticism, until finally he was forced to admit the truth and resign.

He says he’s learned his lesson, and he wants to get back into the fray and fight for the people of New York.  But why would any voter want to pull the lever for a politician who showed such contempt for voters that he stuck to obvious falsehoods until it no longer become possible?  Who would believe him?

The New York Daily News story linked above says that Weiner may be a formidable candidate, because he has lots of money left over from his campaign war chest when he resigned from Congress.  I refuse to believe that money is going to cause voters to forget that this is the same guy who was serving in an important office only two years ago when he decided that lying to the electorate was in his best interest.  I hope I’m not wrong.

As far as Weiner himself goes, I think his decision to run for Mayor is pathetic.  If he had any class, he would retreat to a private life — but the pathetic thing is that he can’t.  Whether it is because he has nothing else that he really can do, or because he craves the limelight, or because he has a war chest and figures he may as well spend it, Weiner can’t resist opening himself and his wife up to intense ridicule.  He deserves it, but his wife doesn’t.  If he had any class and decency, he would recognize that.  That he apparently doesn’t recognize it also says something important about why this guy should never be the Mayor of a major American city.

Spinning A Special Election

Republican Bob Turner prevailed over Democrat David Weprin in yesterday’s special election to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of scandal-plagued Congressman Anthony Weiner.  The result, in a district in the Brooklyn and Queens boroughs of New York City, takes what had been a safe Democratic seat for decades and turns it over to the Republicans.

It’s only one seat of 435 in the House of Representatives, of course, and simply adds to an already existing Republican majority in that chamber.  The question, however, is whether the outcome reflects broader shifts in the views of American voters — and already the spin game seeking to influence the answer to that question has begun.  Republicans say the vote is a referendum on President Obama and his economic policies and note that Turner urged voters to send a message to the President.  Democrats say the race was decided by unique local issues — like a large presence of conservative Orthodox Jews who are angry with President Obama’s position on Israel — and add that Weprin was just an inept candidate.  As a result, they argue, the result is no reflection whatsoever on voters’ opinions of President Obama.

The spin game is an effort to control the message to the gullible schmucks like us, the great unwashed who make up the general electorate.  The real group to watch is the Democrats now in Congress, who are fully capable of separating spin from reality.  They may look at the results of NY-9 and see a race where national Democratic committees spent more than $500,000 in a futile effort to save a supposedly safe seat seat and where all of the get-out-the-vote machinery was activated — and the Democrat still lost.  If those Democrats currently serving see President Obama as an albatross who will lead them and their party to disaster in November 2012, they may stop following that lead, no matter what congressional Democratic leaders like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi say.

Professional politicians tend to be very protective of their own political skins.  If we see more Democrats who are up for election in 2012 peeling away from President Obama in the weeks and months to come — in connection with the President’s current jobs bill, for example — their actions will send a more profound message than the silly political spin game ever could.

The GOP Targets Weiner’s World

You’ll remember former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who resigned from the House of Representatives in disgrace after his curious on-line conduct and later misrepresentations about it were disclosed to the American public.  His sordid tale dominated the airwaves in June.

Tomorrow a special election will be held to replace Weiner.  His New York City district formerly was viewed as safely Democratic — it covers parts of Brooklyn and Queens, and was the political springboard for current New York Senator Chuck Schumer — but now polls indicate that the Republican candidate may actually win.  Such a result would send shock waves through the Democratic Party and might cause more Democrats to begin questioning President Obama and his leadership of the party.

The old saying is that all politics is local, and local issues have been important in this race.  The district includes a large Jewish population, and Republican Bob Turner has urged them to send a message to President Obama about his policies toward Israel.  The polling also indicates, however, that President Obama’s general unpopularity may be a drag on the Democratic candidate, David Weprin.  The President carried the district by 11 percentage points in 2008, but a recent poll indicates that he now is viewed unfavorably by 54 percent of respondents, including 38 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents.

You normally can’t make too much out of a special election to replace a politician who resigned amidst scandal, but tomorrow’s special election could be an exception to that rule.  If a safe Democratic seat flips to the Republicans, it may be a sign of greater voter unrest, and larger political waves, at work in America.

Weiner’s World, Finally Resigned To The Inevitable

Anthony Weiner finally recognized the unavoidable result of his ill-advised behavior and resigned today.  His announcement of his resignation turned into something of a circus, complete with hecklers, catcalls, booing, and cheering.  It brought to an embarrassing end the latest mystifying political scandal.

What lessons can be learned from this sordid story?  Two points seem obvious.  First, the lie and the cover-up are almost always more damning than the original misdeed.  Weiner’s behavior in sending intimate photos and messages to unknown internet acquaintances was extremely weird, but he probably could have survived it if he had not aggressively lied about his Twitter account being hacked in an attempt to avoid disclosure of his conduct.  For most people, his knowing, repeated, straight-faced lies were far more disturbing that his strange activities on the web.

Second, recognize when you are going down, then pick the time and structure the message.  Weiner’s admission that he had engaged in the unseemly conduct and lied to the public made it inevitable that he would have to leave office — particularly when Weiner must have known that other pathetic photos and internet dalliances would come to light.  By vowing to fight, Weiner only exposed himself, his family, and his party to ongoing ridicule, shame, and distraction.  If he had resigned at the outset, he would have spared everyone a humiliating spectacle.  And why publicly read a statement in a forum where you could be jeered and spoofed by shock jocks and other bottom-feeders at the media trough?  Weiner would have been well-advised to follow Jim Tressel’s lead, issue a high-minded written statement, and leave his position out of the media spotlight.

So, Anthony Weiner exits stage left.  When will the next Washington, D.C. media frenzy begin?

What If They Gave A Debate, And Nobody Came?

Tonight there was a debate in New Hampshire among declared Republican presidential candidates.  So we got to see Mitt, and Newt, and Tim, and Rick, and Ron, and Michele, and Herman duke it out — more than a year before next year’s election, and six months before the actual New Hampshire primary.  I didn’t watch it.  Did anyone, who wasn’t paid to do so?

Why do Republicans do this to themselves?  Why have a debate at this point, long before the actual issues on which the election will turn have crystallized?  With the economy struggling and the pathetic thrashings of Anthony Weiner dominating the news, why would Republicans want to do anything to change the national discourse?  Why take the chance that one of the announced candidates, who may never have more than fringe appeal, will say or do something stupid that the media can seize upon as the new story of the day?

When things are going badly for the Democrats — as they are — why intrude?  The Republicans should shut up for a while and let the issues play out, without having a bunch of not-ready-for-prime-time-players talking about matters that probably aren’t going to make much difference come election day in November 2012.  We would all be better served if the “debates” were deferred until we were within a month or two of an actual election that had real consequences.  If the Republicans won’t do the decent thing and keep their yaps shut for a few more months, then the American public should just agree that no one should pay any attention to the blatherings and posturings of the would-be candidates until after the leaves turn and the first snow falls.

Weiner’s World, In Treatment Mode

These days, whenever a politician or celebrity engages in unacceptable behavior, they try to take the heat off by saying they are going to receive “treatment” for their condition.  I guess we are all supposed to feel sorry for them, applaud their courageous decision to seek treatment for their affliction, and lay off any further criticism for the behavior that landed them in hot water in the first place.

So it is with Anthony Weiner.  He is resisting an avalanche of calls for his resignation, and instead says he will take a leave of absence to “enter a psychological treatment center” where he will try to “deal with a pattern of reckless online behavior with women.”  No doubt his “treatment” at the Center for Reckless Online Behavior with Women will be paid for by the gold-plated health care plan that every Member of Congress receives, and then at some point he will spring forth and announce that he is “cured.”  And in the meantime, we will get more information about creepy photos that Weiner took and apparently sent to unsuspecting internet users, like photos of a towel-clad Weiner in the House of Representatives gym.  Evidently he honestly thought he was one of the hottest studs around.

Doesn’t Representative Weiner have any shame?  Shame may be an old-fashioned concept in this modern world, but it would be great for everyone if it came back into fashion.  It would save us the awful spectacle of this pathetic guy who is twisting in the wind and nevertheless hopes that so long as he clings to his job, despite all that has happened, he can somehow revive his dead political career.  C’mon, Congressman Weiner!  It is time to do the right thing, already!

The Normal Rules Do Not Apply — Until They Do

We hear about the Anthony Weiners and Dominique Strauss-Kahns, the John Edwardes  and Arnold Schwarzeneggers, the Bernie Madoffs and stud athletes and CEOs who break the rules or break the laws, and we shake our heads and wonder:  How could they be so reckless and brazen?

I suspect that part of the reason is that such people simply have not lived in the real world for a very long time.  Even if they began somewhere close to normal, for years their lives have been spent in a kind of protective cocoon, surrounded by aides and boosters and supporters and staffers and contributors.  People arrange their meals and social functions for them.  They really don’t need to carry cash anymore.  They get chauffered to events in limousines.  When they arrive at a restaurant, a guy whispers in their ear to let him know if there is any problem — any problem whatsoever! — and it will be taken care of immediately.  They fly first class, get to board when they want, and sip their complimentary champagne and try to ignore the stream of disheveled coach passengers who walk by.  Why shouldn’t these folks feel that they are different from normal people?  They live lives that are different from normal people.  And when they make little missteps, those missteps always — always! — get taken care of by members of their retinue.  The missed tests get retaken.  The tickets are torn up.  The meetings get delayed to accommodate their late arrival.  Their peccadilloes are forgiven through cash payments or side deals or secret agreements.

But then, at some point, a line gets crossed.  The police get called.  A send button is inadvertently hit and reckless private communications become public.  A person who is facing jail time and knows about the misdeeds decides to roll over and cooperate with the crusading prosecutor in hopes of getting a reduced sentence.  And then the mystified member of the elite finds that the cadre of fixers and sycophants aren’t there anymore, that their confident assurances, angry threats, wheedling, bullying, and lies, don’t work anymore.  Suddenly, they are being treated like the common people who, for years, they have seen only in passing or at carefully arranged events — and they realize, to their amazement, that those common people seem to be enjoying their travails.

I imagine that the one common emotion felt by every member of the mighty who has been brought low is . . . astonishment.

Weiner’s World, Crashing Down

After days of pushing a lie about his Twitter account being the subject of a hacking incident — and then watching his story slowly, painfully unravel — Congressman Anthony Weiner ‘fessed up today.  A watery-eyed Weiner admitted that he sent the Twitter picture of his groin to a Seattle college student, acknowledged that he has had inappropriate on-line conversations with other unknown women over the years, apologized for the pain he has caused to his family and friends — and of, course, said he won’t resign.

We have become so inured to this pathetic scenario that we now tend to just accept these incidents and move on.  But, just this once, let’s pause for a moment to consider the breathtaking nature of Weiner’s conduct.  Not only did he exercise the absurdly bad judgment of engaging in tawdry “e-relationships” where he has engaged in ribald e-conversations and sent shirtless photos of himself over the web (what is it with Congressmen and shirtless photos, anyway?), he thought it would be a clever “joke” to send a photo of his shorts area to a young woman. What does it tell you about this man, and his twisted views of women, that he would do such a thing?  Then, when found out that he sent the photo in a way that made it publicly accessible, he says he “panicked” and lied that his Twitter account had been hacked.  Guess he’s the kind of level-headed guy we want making decisions in a crisis, eh?  And apparently his state of panic lasted for more than a week, because he continued to voice his lie through a media blitz.  How trustworthy can this guy be when he can go before the media and lie, lie, and lie again?  Only when his story became an embarrassment and an obvious fraud did he finally tell the truth — or, at least, what he wants us to believe is the truth.

I’m sure there are people who agree with Weiner’s politics who are willing to overlook this stuff and say this incident is a personal matter between Weiner and his wife that is none of our business.  But let’s not kid ourselves about his true fitness to serve as a Member of Congress.  This one incident exposes Weiner as dishonorable, easily flustered, a sleazebag, a cad, and a consistent, persistent liar.  By not doing the right thing and resigning, he will leave it to his constituents to decide whether to return him to Washington in 2012.  Let’s hope they do the right thing for the rest of the country and vote this jerk out of office.


Weiner’s World

Everybody seems to be talking about the bizarre tale of Congressman Anthony Weiner, a Democrat from New York, and his Twitter photo.

For those sane few who have managed to miss the story, Weiner’s Twitter feed sent a lewd photo of some bulging underwear to a college girl in Seattle whose Twitter account Weiner has been “following.”  He claims his account was hacked as part of a “prank,” but he refuses to call law enforcement authorities to investigate.  He also won’t deny that the photo that was sent actually was a photo of his crotch area.

Weiner keeps hoping that the story will go away, but it hasn’t.  Every day there is some new revelation — most recently that an analysis of Weiner’s legitimate Twitter posts were sent using the same platform that launched the infamous crotch shot photo.  If Weiner thinks that the techno geeks who love to dig into hacking incidents are going to let this drop, he’s dreaming.  They will keep digging, and digging, and digging.

This story is so weird it’s hard to say what the weirdest element is.  Does Weiner really have so many crotch shot photos that he can’t determine whether the photo in question was one of him?  But for me the most curious aspect of this story is that a Member of Congress is spending so much time on Twitter, following the Twitter comments of random women out in cyberspace.  Doesn’t he have something better to do?  Doesn’t he realize that no good can come of late-night, instantaneous communications with unknown coeds?  I think such conduct tell you a lot about this guy’s judgment and character.