Category Archives: public morality



“We should treat with indulgence every human folly, failing, and vice, bearing in mind that what we have before us are simply our own failings, follies, and vices. For they are just the failings of mankind to which we also belong and accordingly we have all the same failings buried within ourselves. We should not be indignant with others for these vices simply because they do not appear in us at the moment.”

— Irvin D. Yalom, The Schopenhauer Cure



I have hardly ever used drugs in my lifetime — with the exception of marijuana and hashish in earlier years, that is. I have no desire to. In fact, I am averse to drugs on principle. I don’t like putting foreign substances into my body, even aspirin. There are exceptions; I have complied occasionally when I was prescribed medications.

Nevertheless, I did — like, it seemed, practically every other youth and college student in the 1960’s — use marijuana off and on during that period of my life, specifically during my senior year in college (plus a few times right after graduating).

In other words, occasionally. I wasn’t a pothead. I believe there were a lot of people like me at the time who flirted with marijuana because everyone else was doing it.

I hope it’s okay to confess it. I inhaled. Presumably the statute of limitations will protect me from any consequences.

I remember that the first time I tried it, at the instigation of college roommates, it seemed like nothing was happening. “Don’t worry,” they said, “it’s always that way the first time.”

I remember some enjoyable experiences. Mostly, uncontrollable laughter. Sometimes in the presence of others who weren’t indulging and didn’t know what was going on. I almost never laughed so hard before or since.

Listening once to The Rolling Stones’ new song “She’s a Rainbow,” being mesmerized, and thinking it was the most beautiful song I had ever heard. (It’s not that good.)

Later, I some bad experiences with marijuana and, occasionally, hashish. Just the opposite. Lows instead of highs. Feeling bummed out instead of giddy. On such occasions, I felt profoundly alienated and isolated. Instead of giddiness, an unbearable sadness.

I never was involved in making a purchase. I had no idea where or how my friends made purchases, or how much they cost. It seems they got marijuana and hashish of widely varying quality. Some of it seemed to be laced with something, and very powerful. I saw the Beatles film Yellow Submarine while high. It seemed like I was hallucinating and the colors were flashing on the screen.

I never used marijuana after graduating from college except a couple of times, and that was in the period right after graduation, when I was still living near the campus and associating with some of my college friends — I have not used marijuana for over 45 years. For some reason, in those last few experiences, which were in the late 1960’s, I had extremely depressing “highs” — actually, lows. This led me to believe that one’s experience of being high depends a lot on one’s mood going into it. I was depressed in general at the time.

Another thing I found, from experience, was: don’t mix grass with alcohol. I had at least one experience I recall of getting drunk and high at the same time. It was horrible.

I never did any other drugs: no psychedelics. In hindsight, I am very glad that this was the case. For me, it was a good thing.



My college friends progressed, in short order, to doing psychedelic drugs: LSD and mescaline. They wanted to try and experience everything.

I became aware of this during the summer of 1967 when a group of my closest college friends made a cross country trip, unbeknownst to me. I received a postcard from one of them from the West Coast, which was the first I had heard about the trip. I had always had a desire to do a cross country trip by car and probably would have gone with them, had I been asked. But one of them later told me that they had deliberately declined to invite me. The reason was that they thought I was a square when it came to drugs and that it wouldn’t have been fun to have me along because of this. They wanted to take a trip in the conventional sense of the word and also to be able to trip on psychedelic drugs.

I never shared their enthusiasm for drugs, although I did not then and never have tended to be the censorious type.

My friends were speaking with something bordering on rapture about the great trips they were having. But, something held me back, an instinctive caution. I didn’t like the idea of putting chemicals into my bloodstream, and I was afraid of bad trips. It was an intuitive, instinctive thing, a foreboding. I am certain that I would have had very bad experiences had I used psychedelic drugs.

I worked as a psychiatric aide for a couple of years shortly after graduating from college and observed patients whose use of hallucinogens had triggered psychotic episodes. All of them were young. (This was some time after I myself had used or even considered using any kind of drugs, so the fact that I observed this was not relevant to my own behavior. The caution and wariness I had about drug use predated my hospital experience.)



Because I myself have practically never used drugs or craved them, I am not outraged or offended by drug users. Drug use seems to me to be a waste of time, energy, and resources, a depressing aspect of life for many. But, I am not horrified at the thought of drug abuse. I feel it is unfortunate, but, in my mind, it does not seem to be criminal.

Does this mean that I am a softhearted type? Perhaps. An ostrich with its head in the sand? I don’t think so.

Off and on throughout my life, I have experienced alcoholism second hand by observing it among relatives and friends. I have never had a severe drinking problem, so — somewhat as is the case with drugs — alcoholism never alarmed me. But, it did hit a bit closer to home, and so I was consternated when I observed close friends of mine dealing with a drinking problem. A couple of my friends announced out of the blue to me that they had joined AA. I was a bit alarmed, thinking to myself, initially, I didn’t realize the problem had gotten so bad. But, that was it. I never regarded alcoholism as criminal or whatever pejorative term one might care to use. Merely as a problem for some people. A problem that can have serious consequences for them and their families. But, not one that one should be penalized, ostracized, or shunned for.

Which brings me back to drug addiction. I feel that it is unfortunate, but I do not regard it as criminal. Obviously, treatment would be desirable in most cases. But, why are drug users subjected to draconian sentences? Why are they treated as monsters, as scourges of society?

The penalties are far too harsh. Lock ‘em up? For twenty or thirty years or more? How about saying, we require you to complete a mandatory drug treatment program.

Vague, all-encompassing charges (so designed, I would imagine, so that they can “fit” all kinds of offenses, like a one size fits all sock) — such as possession with the intent to distribute — for nonviolent drug offenses result in unbelievably harsh sentences. Such persons get treated like monsters — it seems at least sometimes worse than murderers. They are rent from loved ones and families and incarcerated for 20, 30, 40, or 50 years. For what? For harm done mostly to themselves.

If such people are to be treated as scourges of society and as menaces to the public good and wellbeing or safety, why aren’t such harsh penalties inflicted on offenders with other addictions: gambling, say, or drinking? The criminal “justice” system is inherently unjust — is not rational, reasonable, or fair. (Writers such as Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens figured this out a long time ago.)



What is it that makes some types of substance abuse and victimless crimes so repugnant, so abominable, so shocking, so horrifying to most people, I wonder. (And, why is alcohol abuse penalized so harshly in Muslim countries while winked at, judicially speaking, here, whereas the situation is somewhat the reverse when it comes to drug abuse?)

It seems that a kind of psychodynamic is going on whereby the authorities, serving, as they see it, as the incarnation of public sentiment, as the standard bearers of virtue, denounce and prosecute activities that perhaps they themselves have been tempted to engage in, a repressed desire. So, that by wiping out the “scourge” — by trying to eradicate it through draconian penalties (which do not stop people from engaging in such behavior) — they are removing vermin from the face of the earth, and at the time removing temptation from the front view mirror.

I used to wonder, when A. M. Rosenthal was a columnist for The New York Times, what it was that made him so hysterical when writing about the topic of drugs. Or about the time when New York Post columnist Pete Hamill wrote an op-ed piece asserting that we should carpet bomb Turkish poppy fields.

People become enraged over miscreant behavior that doesn’t actually do harm, such as the case of nonviolent drug offenders. They become zealots in the manner of a Robespierre.

Take the example of former New York State governor Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in 2008 after it was publicly disclosed that he had been patronizing escorts. As state attorney general, Spitzer was known for going after prostitution rings. A few journalists noticed this and commented on Spritzer’s hypocrisy after his immoral behavior, for which he could have been prosecuted, came to light.

There have been countless examples over the years of public servants and civic officials who were caught engaging in the same type of activities that they had publicly denounced as immoral and criminal.



If I may, I would like to conclude with a couple of additional comments based upon my own experience.

I do not myself find addictive behavior to be — a priori — pleasant to witness.

In 1970, I saw the film Trash, which got a lot of notoriety and which, it seemed, appealed to my generation. There was a scene where the actor Joe Dallesandro injects heroin into his veins. I almost fainted. Which I guess is my way of saying that the nuts and bolts of drug abuse are not something I like to contemplate.

At a later time, I saw a documentary film made in Amsterdam the title of which I do not recall. It seemed that the filmmakers intended to be objective, and to portray graphically what it was like to live in a country with lax laws regulating vice. I kind of expected to see that Amsterdam was a liberated, fun place. But, in the film, that did not seem to be the case. Indeed, it seemed depressing. There were interviews with prostitutes, all of them middle aged, who were matter of fact about their business. There was a scene of a sexual encounter between a stripper and a customer in a strip club that was dispiriting to observe. And, there were a lot of scenes shot in cafes where aging hippies with headbands were smoking pot. Everything seemed seedy and depressing.

Bottom line. I am not saying, am not advocating: let’s all have a good time and indulge in whatever activities or immoral behavior we feel like. It’s a personal matter, and also one that often has an impact on the quality of life, both on the personal and on the social, public levels, But, when people — out of curiosity, boredom, frustration, or despair; or perhaps because they harbor antisocial tendencies — do engage in behavior that is not pretty but does not directly harm others, I believe that the first thing we should try to do is to understand them and help them to perhaps see that there are alternatives.


— Roger W. Smith

   February 2017; updated June 2018




According to an article in The New York Times:

“Attorney General Orders Tougher Sentences, Rolling Back Obama Policy”

The New York Times

May 12, 2017


Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered federal prosecutors to pursue the toughest possible charges and sentences against crime suspects, he announced Friday, reversing Obama administration efforts to ease penalties for some nonviolent drug violations. ….

Mr. Sessions’s memo replaced the orders of former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who in 2013 took aim at drug sentencing rules. He encouraged prosecutors to consider the individual circumstances of a case and to exercise discretion in charging drug crimes. In cases of nonviolent defendants with insignificant criminal histories and no connections to criminal organizations, Mr. Holder instructed prosecutors to omit details about drug quantities from charging documents so as not to trigger automatically harsh penalties.

This is truly sad.

Dispiriting, depressing.

It is also sad to consider that this story and the attorney general’s cruel (sometimes the plainest word is the right one) directive will probably not get much attention, given that media attention and criticisms of the Trump administration are focused — to the exclusion of practically everything else, it would seem, at times — on President Trump’s firing of FBI director James B. Comey, which has just occurred and has dominated the news all week.

Slightly less than half, 50 percent, of the total of over 200,000 persons incarcerated in federal prisons have been convicted of drug offenses. Of course, the preponderance of them are minorities.

Of the total incarcerated in state prisons, almost a million and a half individuals — about one out of every six — had a drug crime as their most serious offense.

How many of these “criminals” do you think are violent offenders. Want to make a guess?


— Roger W. Smith

   May 13, 2017


See also:

“Unity Was Emerging on Sentencing. Then Came Jeff Sessions”

The New York Times

May 14, 2017

Note that the article states that “Mr. Sessions, … as a senator from Alabama supported legislation that would have made a second marijuana trafficking conviction a capital crime.”



— Roger W. Smith

   May 14, 2017



See also:

She Went to Jail for a Drug Relapse. Tough Love or Too Harsh?

By Jan Hoffman

The New York Times

June 4, 2018

This article provides a textbook example of the absurdity and cruelty or our policy towards drug offenders.

Besides finding confirmation of my views, I was struck by a couple of paragraphs near the end of the story:

… recent studies show that replication efforts failed. They reduced neither rates of drug use nor crime.

Probation, writes Fiona Doherty, a clinical professor at Yale Law School, is “a hidden body of law” that needs scrutiny because judges and probation officers have wide latitude to define a defendant’s “good behavior.”

The [Julie] Eldred case [the focus of the Times article], which challenges that power, is, ironically, a continuation of the origins story for probation. In 1841, John Augustus, a teetotaling Boston bootmaker, described as the father of modern probation, posted bond for “a common drunkard.” By his death, he had supervised nearly 2,000 people, many arrested for intoxication, their records expunged in exchange for avowed sobriety.

Note how alcoholism was treated back then.


— Roger W. Smith

    June 5, 2018

“vanity of vanities; all is vanity”


The news depresses me.

It is too much, far too much, about trivialities presented as matters of grave concern to the nation and body politic.

It is not informative and instructive and is in fact rebarbative. It induces feelings of unpleasantness.

Well, one might say, what do you expect? We are talking about unpleasant realities. A dalliance with a porn star?

I might think it important to know about unpleasant realities such as the My Lai Massacre, waterboarding of Guantanamo Bay detainees, gas attacks on civilians (including children), or the latest shooting by a police officer of a black person. These are the kind of facts and atrocities that should be brought to light in all their horror.

I sometimes, in fact often, “look” with curiosity, perhaps fascination, perhaps with Schadenfreude and/or with a frisson of something like pleasure or titillation — as one might at an accident with people wounded or killed, perhaps lying in the street — at the latest salacious news item. I read the latest revelations, am curious, yet quickly tire of them.

The Trump tormentors are worse than Trump himself.

The fascination with him, the eagerness for his downfall, are the product of misdirected energy, of mass morbidity, of sick minds engaging in an Elmer Gantry style revival meeting where everyone is whipped up to a state of anti-Trump frenzy and moral fervor, with them seeing themselves as the righteous ones.

Hounds yapping at his heels. How his adversaries take pleasure in the hunt, as do others vicariously. It could be you or I who is the hunted one, in a different context.

Trump is not worth the attention. He’s the president. He is entitled to a modicum of respect.

I hope he is not reelected.

No one deserves to be spied upon and to have their private life exposed. No one’s home should be entered by snoops unexpectedly when they are still in bed.

A sinner, a lawbreaker should be able to consult with his or her lawyer (or a priest or anyone else) in confidence.

No one’s computer, cell phone, or private papers should be confiscated.

This includes Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen and his former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Of course, they will try to find a statute or law that says they can.

Laws should be enacted and enforced to protect people from harm to their persons. Not to be used as a pretext for entrapment, guilt by association, selective prosecution, or witch hunts.

Trump should be allowed to govern until his term ends.

People should direct their attention elsewhere: to constructive and creative enterprises, to commerce, and to social betterment.

The public has fallen into a morass of warped public moralizing and hypocrisy, which is much worse than Trump’s depravity; and, were there a Truth Commission that could strip all men of their “garments of probity” and show them as they actually are, with their sins made public, the feeding frenzy would never end and hardly anyone would be able to don the mantle of respectability, hardly anyone could remain in public office because of hitherto unknown transgressions against private morality or public decency.

Let’s (but I know no one is listening) have a civilized discussion/debate about the ISSUES.

Donald Trump is a womanizer. I don’t care. So are or were many other prominent, successful men. So are or were men of my acquaintance, many of whom I have admired for other reasons.

Is it good to be a womanizer? On the personal level, it depends on all sorts of factors and may be of great concern, justly so, to persons affected. Donald Trump’s behavior, any man’s, is of legitimate concern to his wife. And those affected by it, including women to whom he behaved improperly. It’s not my concern. If my next door neighbor committed adultery, I might disapprove, but I would leave it to his wife to decide how she wants to deal with it.

Should I myself be caught doing anything I know most people wouldn’t approve of, I would not want it to come to light.

The economy seems to have improved under Trump. I’m not an economist. I actually agree with a few policy initiatives of his administration, but I disagree vehemently for the most part with his views and actions and don’t like his administration. I wish people would (as many are) devote their energies to trying to defeat these policies and elect a new president in 2020.

“Saints” and paragons such as FDR, Eisenhower, JFK, and Martin Luther King, Jr. had affairs. J. Edgar Hoover is considered to have acted deplorably by spying on King with the aim of discrediting him. Thank God we didn’t have to spend day after day or night after night reading about or watching news programs about King’s dalliances and all the sordid details.

— Roger W. Smith

    April 2018




A reader of this blog and I had an email exchange about this post on April 16. The following are excerpts (the reader’s comments are in italics):


Donald Trump started a lot of this media buzz about himself by himself –initiated by him, i.e. going on the Howard Stern Show many times and it is said, feeding dirt about himself to his friends in the tabloid business. Now, decades of these playboy habits and coverage, it is hard to quell — old habits, old image, and all that.

my response:

Yes, Trump — before he was running for president — loved to get attention as a naughty boy and playboy. The image won’t leave him. But, I still don’t like the way things are playing out now. And how about Clinton? A lot of liberals were willing to put up with him and he was a womanizer. Not just someone playing around and having affairs, but having oral sex in the oval office with a White House intern much young than him.


Secondly, both the porn star and Playboy bunny have generated the buzz by going to the tabloids in 2016 — rather than the mainstream media digging up embarrassing dirt on Trump on their own — out of the blue. Think Jennifer Flowers suing Clinton.

my response:

It’s true that they started a lot of this, not the Times or the Washington Post. That’s a good point.


Third, James Comey went on record yesterday, in an interview, stating that Trump is not insane or going into dementia. Comey said Trump follows conversations and understands everything and is above average intelligence. Comey continued that Trump “is not fit to be president’ — on moral grounds (and the women factor is just one small reason).

my response:

We can question Trump’s personal fitness on moral grounds and as a person. But, the voters elected him. Some people used to say Nixon was sort of a madman with a bad personality. You don’t impeach a president or sue him in court for being what some think is a lowlife, jerk, or amoral guy. A president could be removed for disability — can’t perform the functions of his office. Trump is not unfit, even if you don’t like him or think he’s a bad person.


Fourth, like you, I have a sacred regard for the office of president. But, you would be the first person to protest if your government was not doing the moral thing, i.e., ongoing war for years in the Middle East, the dismantling of the EPA and Consumer Affairs.

my response:

I thought George W. Bush was totally wrong to go to war in Iraq. I don’t like what Trump is doing on the environment or other issues that, say, Obama, was the opposite on. Too bad for me. He’s the president. The solution: try to see that he’s not reelected.

“it all depends on where you draw the line”


My high school English teacher, Robert W. Tighe, was a wonderful teacher and a learned man in the humanities. He also was equipped with practical knowledge and wisdom, the sort that could be applied to everyday affairs and issues.

The topic of censorship once came up in class. Mr. Tighe said, “When arguments of censorship arise, it always comes down to the question: where you draw the line?” He continued in this vein. He asked the class, “Do you think I should be allowed to sell French postcards in the school parking lot?” We all said no. “Well then,” Mr. Tighe said, “that proves my point.”

I was thinking recently about Mr. Tighe’s observation, which I never forgot, and its implications — both in the “narrow” sense (how does it apply to issues of censorship and obscenity?) and in the “wider” sense of how it might apply in general to controversies where one side or the other might say, “This is beyond the pale. This goes too far.”



Some examples.

In a previous post of mine

“After Racist Rage, Statues Fall”

“After Racist Rage, Statues Fall”

I stated that, in my opinion, statutes honoring heroes of the Confederacy should not be taken down. A reader of the post commented: “There’s a big difference between Robert E. Lee, who fought to preserve slavery and who fought to tear this country apart, and the founding fathers who created our government. Should statues of Hitler and Nazi monuments be preserved because they are part of history? [italics added]”

That comment (the second, italicized sentence, not the first) stopped me in my tracks. It made me think: Could it be that I am opposed to taking down MOST statues, but that here are some exceptions, some historical figures (Hitler, Stalin, etc.), who were so bad — notwithstanding my stated point of view, in variance with it, or perhaps one might say, despite it — that they should not be honored with statues?

Similarly, in my post

“is it possible (or desirable) to hold two divergent opinions at the same time?”

I noted that there were some hot button issues — ones that seem to never get resolved — that are so contentious and emotionally charged that “public agreement” on them seems impossible. For example: capital punishment; abortion; hawks vs. doves. The real test, the hard part, I wrote, comes “when one is dealing with actualities and specific cases.” For example: I am against capital punishment, but when I saw and read news items about beheadings of hostages by ISIS terrorists, I felt that I would like to see the executioners publicly beheaded. Charles Manson died a few weeks ago. I believe in the Christian doctrine of forgiveness, but I was glad to see him dead.

And so on.



What about censorship? Obscenity? Pornography? Which my English teacher was talking about.

What once was considered obscene — and was verboten legally — is now common. Ulysses, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Tropic of Cancer — all of them classics — were once forbidden books. What ever happened to censorship (on obscenity grounds) of literature? It doesn’t exist any more.

Sexually explicit films and magazines that would be considered legally obscene when I was growing up seem tame and would bother no one now. Pornography is available on the Internet for free now — to suit every market niche and appeal to every prurient taste.

So, the “foul lines” keep being widened for obscenity issues.



What about the recent spate of reported sexual offenses (most of them from past years) against men? How does Donald Trump compare with Bill Clinton in this regard, or vice versa? Are Al Franken’s and Garrison Keillor’s transgressions as serious as were Harvey Weinstein’s and (allegedly) Roy Moore’s? Charlie Rose? Matt Lauer? (See more on this below.)



The bottom line, it seems to me, is that when push comes to shove — in the final analysis — judgments are made both: (1) according to principles people feel compelled to adhere to; and (2) according to the degree of outrage or indignation they do or do not feel. Perhaps this is obvious. In making judgments, one takes into account both the law as one construes it (ranging from the legislative to codes of ethics and religion) and one’s gut reactions.

I guess what I am trying to say is that, when considering grave issues, people believe they are adhering to firmly held principles. But, opinions can and do shift over time, according to what people are willing to tolerate. Just as Mr. Tighe said.

Take the Monica Lewinsky scandal, for example. Some legislators and many anti-Clinton people (including some, like myself, who always vote Democratic) felt that Clinton, having lied under oath, should have been impeached on principle and as a matter of law. Others were willing to give him a pass.



What about the wave of sexual assault and harassment allegations now sweeping the country in tidal wave fashion (mentioned above)?

Standards are shifting, that’s for sure.

But, there seems to be much confusion. Are distinctions being made, should they, according to circumstances, gravity of offense — e.g. Al Franken and Garson Keilor, say, versus Harvey Weinstein?

Is it now the unwritten law that any evidence of inappropriate sexual behavior, any improper or unasked-for advances, are henceforth forbidden, and that all cases will be punished with equal severity?

There was a good column in The Washington Post recently that addresses these issues (and, for readers of this post from overseas who may not be familiar with the current controversy, provides an overview):

“So what should happen to Al Franken?”

by Ruth Marcus

The Washington Post

November 17, 2017

All kinds of issues seem to be getting entangled here: moral principles; feminist issues; the law, which is often not clear (for instance, where and when was the offense committed? was it a state or federal crime? does the statute of limitations apply?); and so on. Then, what seems reprehensible to some may seem excusable to others. Pretty much everyone agrees that pedophilia is the worst sort of crime and is repugnant. But, were Roy Moore’s alleged transgressions those of a pedophile?


“Roy Moore is not a pedophile”

by Rachel Hope Cleves and Nicholas L. Syrett

The Washington Post

November 19, 2017

It matters, because when we are debating issues like these about which people feel so strongly, hysteria can prevail. Terms are thrown around and accusations are made loosely. Clear headedness and dispassionate judgments tend not to be welcomed or in evidence.

Which is not to say that people shouldn’t feel outrage. I myself found that I loathed Moore: his past actions, his denials, his attempts to impugn his accusers.

But, here’s a question worth pondering. Sexual harassment in the US — in the workplace, in the media, in academia — as the recent allegations show, is nothing new. Quite a few of the victimized women have indicated that complaints they made in the past were ignored. But, now, when an allegation is made against Garrison Keillor or a WNYC talk show host, they are immediately fired and their shows are canceled, despite their having disputed allegations or denied them. Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine is accused of predatory sexual behavior with minors, and he is immediately fired by the opera’s board of directors before an investigation which the board had just commenced is completed.

So, how are the swift actions by corporate boards and peremptory firings accounted for? Apparently, Mr. Tighe’s line has shifted, very fast. But, I wonder — in the case of the firings, do the boards of corporations and media and cultural organizations really care that much about the victims, or even feel outrage? I think what they care about most is staying ahead of the curve of public opinion, and making sure that they are not seen to be tolerating such behavior, lest it have a negative impact on sales, attendance, viewership, and the like.

If they really cared that much about the issues, and the victims, why were complaints routinely ignored in the past, until the very recent past, before public opinion shifted? And, if what we are talking about is criminal behavior, why not let the law run its course?

— Roger W. Smith

   December 2017




See also:

“When #MeToo Goes Too Far”

by Bret Stephens

The New York Times

December 20, 2017

the punishment of Anthony Weiner


Roger W. Smith

email to Anthony Weiner

September 27, 2017


Dear Mr. Weiner,

I feel terribly sorry for you.

YOU are a victim.

Of malicious prosecutors and an inhuman judge.

Who refuse to acknowledge your contrition and progress in therapy.

And of a legal system which is making you out be a monster for what was a foolish but petty transgression.

Roger W. Smith

Maspeth, NY



Former congressman Anthony Weiner has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for having illicit contact on line with a 15-year-old girl using Skype and Snapchat. Weiner was also fined $10,000. After his sentence is served, he must undergo internet monitoring. He must also enroll in a sex-offender treatment program. He will be required to register as a convicted sex offender where he lives or works for the rest of his life.

Weiner has no prior criminal record, has pledged himself to rehabilitation, and has been undergoing a rigorous program of group therapy and treatment by Sex Addicts Anonymous.

In May 2017, Weiner pleaded guilty to transferring obscene material to a minor, stemming from interactions he had with a 15-year-old girl from England. The Daily Mail had published an article about the illicit online exchange, based upon an interview with the girl. The incident came after a barrage of revelations about Weiner’s explicit communications with women he met on the internet. Weiner is married and has a five-year-old son. His wife has filed for divorce.

Previous incidents of sexting by Weiner that were publicized had resulted in his resignation from Congress and public humiliation for him.




The prosecutors, Amanda Kramer and Stephanie Lake, in their sentencing papers, said probation was “simply inadequate.” (The government had recommended a sentence within the range of 21 to 27 months.) “There is a history here that simply cannot be ignored,” Ms. Kramer said in court. “What is required here to stop the defendant from re-offending, to fully pierce his denial and end this tragic cycle is a meaningful term of imprisonment.”



Weiner’s lawyers, Arlo Devlin-Brown and Erin Monju, had sought probation for him, citing what they described as Weiner’s “remarkable progress” in the treatment program he is participating in. In court, Mr. Devlin-Brown asked the judge to hold out prison as a possibility if necessary, “but not apply it now, and give an opportunity for something positive to emerge from the wreckage of all of this.”

Mr. Devlin-Brown, in a statement, cited a comment by the judge that Weiner’s sentence might send a cautionary message to other sex addicts. “We certainly hope this public service message is received,” he said, “but it has resulted in a punishment more severe than it had to be, given the unusual facts and circumstances of the case.”

One of Weiner’s lawyers emphasized in court during his sentencing that he is the father of a five-year-old boy, whose continued contact with Mr. Weiner could be instrumental to his recovery.

In addition, Mr. Devlin-Brown cited Weiner’s commitment to rehabilitation as a reason not to send Weiner to prison at all, arguing that it would disrupt the “remarkable progress” he has made in therapy.



“I acted not only unlawfully but immorally, and if I had done the right thing, I would not be standing before you today. The prosecutors are skeptical that I have truly changed and I don’t blame them. I repeatedly acted in an obviously destructive way when I was caught.”

“I was a very sick man for a very long time. I have a disease but I have no excuse. I accept complete and total responsibility for my crime. I was the adult.”



The judge, Denise L. Cote of Federal District Court in Manhattan, told Mr. Weiner that his offense was “a serious crime that deserves serious punishment.” She said that there was a uniform opinion among those who had examined him that he had “a disease that involves sexual compulsivity; some call it a sex addiction.” She said Mr. Weiner was finally receiving “effective treatment for this disease,” including attending group therapy and Sex Addicts Anonymous. “I find he is making an enormous contribution to others who are suffering from that same disease. But the difficulty here, is that this is a very strong compulsion, so strong [that] despite two very public disclosures and the destruction of his career on two occasions, he continued with the activity.”

Judge Cote also said that because of Mr. Weiner’s notoriety, there was “intense interest in this prosecution, in his plea, and his sentence. … So there is the opportunity to make a statement that could protect other minors.”



Joon H. Kim, the acting United States attorney in Manhattan, said Mr. Weiner’s sentence was “just” and “appropriate.”



THE NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD (“The Wreckage of Anthony Weiner.” editorial, September 25, 2017)

As painful as it is to watch a life in ruins, Mr. Weiner brought degradation upon himself. No public penance on his part, no acknowledgment of a sexual addiction, no level of commitment to rehabilitation, no expressed regrets for having turned lives upside down, could absolve him of grave sin. This former New York congressman had repeatedly exchanged lewd texts with a 15-year-old girl. That made him not just a moral transgressor. It made him a criminal. … The year and nine months given him by Judge Denise Cote qualified as an act of grace, as did her hope that, once freed, he would find a way to be “engaged productively.” … To put it bluntly, Anthony Weiner — smart, often witty, politically deft, at one time plausibly a strong candidate for New York mayor — proved to be a pathetic jerk. But few jerks do as much damage as he did in his recklessness. He may even be responsible for Donald Trump being president. … He certainly was the ruination of himself. “I was a very sick man for a very long time,” he told the judge before she sentenced him. Not many would have disagreed when he then said, “I have no excuse.”


Comment by Roger W. Smith: This is stern moralizing by holier than thou creeps, which is what they are, to put it bluntly. They have suddenly gotten religion. What they can’t forgive Mr. Weiner for is the “sin” of supposedly derailing Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency. This to them is a mortal sin, far outweighing his other transgressions, which they could really care less about (despite pretending otherwise). Compassion and human understanding are not their concern.

Also, Mr. Weiner has become an EMBARRASSMENT. His “sins” really are negligible in the overall scope of things. Yes, negligible. He had no prior criminal record and engaged in activity that got him into trouble legally only once. He had no physical or personal contact (other than “virtual contact”) with the girl and did do something inappropriate and illegal, but not something that deserves jail time. (Many Times readers feel as I do; see below.) He doesn’t have friends left in the right places, though, because he is seen as a loser and creep (“pathetic jerk”) in the Times editorial writers’ opinion (despite having been on the “right side” politically when it comes to Timesthink), which, you can be sure, represents the thinking of “right thinking” people (those who consider themselves ashamed of Mr. Weiner). Once they no longer approve of you, watch out!





It’s hard to defend Anthony Weiner but someone has to. His crimes were crimes of ideas, thoughts and fantasies. No one was physically touched, no one was ever physically harmed. They all participated and if they felt he was bothering him they could have easily ‘deleted’ him. Sure, the guy has issues, but they are his issues and none of our business. He is fully aware of the irreparable damage that his obsessiveness with sexual fantasy with people he has met online has caused in him. His job as congressman, his rehabilitation, his marriage. I can see the judge taking away his cell phone for 21 months, but not putting him in jail.


The worst sadness in all this is his son. Weiner is seriously ill and was unable to control his devastating impulses. Why subject his son to 21 months without him when it has been shown he has improved with now, the right treatment and hasn’t offended in a year. His son needs him at his delicate age more than Weiner needs a jail cell, with seemingly less therapy available. Why didn’t the judge consider his long-suffering wife when she asked, because of their son, not to jail him. So the judge sentenced his son to possibly a much longer sentence than his father…. Sad. Judge, very sad.


What is wrong with our legal system? Anthony Weiner is a sick man, he has a mental illness. So we’re going to send him to prison for nearly two years? Bankers and lenders who engage in practices that nearly destroy the economy, and bankrupt thousands and thousands of innocent people, never spend a day in prison, not even one of the nice “white collar” ones but someone with a severe addiction is sentenced to prison. What’s wrong with this picture? Everything.


Am I the only one who thinks 21 months for sexting is ridiculous? There wasn’t even any contact.


While I don’t approve of Weiner’s action(s) and am livid at both he and his wife for their role in the 2016 election disaster, I have to wonder if 21 months for sending pictures to a teenager is a tad draconian. There were pictures. There was no physical contact. The girl was 15, not 11. She was never in any physical danger and was free to end the session(s) at any time.

The leap from jailing someone for sending pictures to jailing someone for making a lewd comment to jailing someone for thinking lewd thoughts is not as great as one might imagine. I suggest that those calling for blood in this case take a deep breath and do some deep thinking.


Anthony Weiner should not go to jail. He has treatable illness and the place for treatment is through the medical system not the prison system. His crimes were crimes of fantasy and he never so much as physically touched a “victim” who could have easily “deleted” him instead of egging him on. He has already lost enough. His job, his aspirations of political rehabilitation, his privacy, his marriage. Take a way his cell phone maybe, but not his freedom.


The sentencing of Mr. Weiner is excessive and unjustified. Twenty-one months in a federal jail for having committed a virtual crime with a teenager who is curious and confused, and willing, is selective enforcement and unjust.

Mr. Weiner has an impulse control problem, that is clear. I don’t see him as a monster but one with a neurological and behavioral disorder on a level with drug addiction.


I don’t care for the man but the sentence is way too harsh. He never had physical contact with the young person. It can be true that he’s a jerk, and also be true that his sentence is too harsh.




Anthony Weiner has not behaved in a way that reflects well upon him.

He has an addiction, a compulsion.

An addiction to sex, alcohol, drugs, gambling may be a problem for a person and their loved ones, but it is not a priori a crime. Nor should it be.

Weiner’s addiction manifested itself in sexting. It was behavior not becoming a public official, but, since it was with other adults, it was not a crime. Until he slipped up once, and engaged in a salacious internet exchange with an underage girl.

For this he will be required to register as a sex offender? That is really cruel and uncalled for. Yes, cruel. Isn’t the purpose of such laws — i.e., those dealing with sex offenders — to prevent predators such as rapists and child molesters from repeat offenses, and to protect potential victims? Anthony Weiner belongs in this category of offender? The judge says he does, or could be, or _______ (who knows how she concluded what she did). How does she know that he is a dangerous sexual predator likely to continue, despite being in therapy? She pretends to knowledge which is founded on nothing substantive, no evidence; there is no basis for her conclusions.

A key to the judge’s convoluted thinking seems to be indicated by her statement that because of Weiner’s notoriety, there has been “intense interest in this prosecution, in his plea, and his sentence. … So there is the opportunity to make a statement that could protect other minors.”

In other words, use Weiner to make a general point — to teach a lesson to all and sundry — which does not quite apply in this case, but who cares? It’s worth using Weiner as an example, to scare would be predators from offending. Just in case they might be thinking about it. Or, if Weiner himself might possibly be thinking about repeating. Better to be safe than sorry. Put his head on a pole in a public square.

It’s not fair. There is a person’s life being ruined here. Can’t the punishment be made to at least fit the crime? Are we to have “designer sentences” contrived to set an example for all would be sexters?

Trials are a game. Like kids playing tug of war, Old Maid, or Monopoly. Or sports contests. The two sides — prosecution and defense — only want to WIN. (And, to run up the score, if they can. Just as a football team doesn’t want to win by 3 points if they can manage to win by 30 points, prosecutors argue for as long a sentence as they can manage to see imposed, no matter the justness of it.) Perhaps — probably — to bolster their resumes. In the process, what’s fair and what the explanation for misdeeds might be — and many other considerations that ought to be taken into account in resolving thorny questions of motivation, guilt, responsibility, accountability, and so on — get brushed aside.

The truth and what’s fair are irrelevant. Compassion for the individual on trial is considered irrelevant, not to the purpose. For example, that Weiner is contrite and has committed himself to therapy, or that imprisonment could have a negative effect upon his son, who is five years old.

Judges to be prepared for the job must have to submit to the opposite of a blood transfusion: an UNtransfusion whereby they are drained of all blood. Of human feeling and human emotions. They and the Robespierre-like prosecutors are bloodless, insensate, obdurate, unfeeling, heartless, insentient, soulless, unbending, cold blooded, indurated. (Choose your adjective.)

A final thought. It concerns public morality as it affects and impinges upon the thinking and decisions of prosecutors and judges.

The PC crowed used to be against censorship and obscenity laws and against snooping, into bedrooms and/or one’s reading matter, say. The American literary critic Newton Arvin (1900-1963), a professor at Smith College, was forced into retirement in 1960 after pleading guilty to charges stemming from the possession of pictures of semi-nude men from issues of magazines such as Grecian Guild Pictorial and Trim: Young America’s Favorite Physique Publication. Arvin’s prosecution is regarded as having been a miscarriage of justice (he also had Communist leanings), yet, today, something similar is going on with the vigilant hunting of persons who violate strictures regarding what is and what is not permissible to be viewed or shared on the internet. There seems to have been a definite shift towards meting out more severe punishments, and the PC crowd are in the vanguard, calling for justice, as they see it, to be applied with no possibility of redemption (read treatment, in the case of nonviolent offenders) contemplated or allowed for.


Roger W. Smith

   September 28, 2017




According to a Wikipedia article at

Psychological projection is a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. For example, a person who is habitually rude may constantly accuse other people of being rude. It incorporates blame shifting.

That’s what has fundamentally been going on here. Ever since Anthony Weiner was caught sexting. As the press was feasting on and gloating about each new disclosure.




A former colleague and good friend of my wife called this evening (September 30) and left a voice mail. It so happens that he is very articulate.

Apropos my post about Anthony Weiner, he said: “Roger’s argument about Anthony Weiner is so compelling, it’s impossible to detect any flaws in it.”

I realize, sadly, that despite this, it will probably not help Mr. Weiner.




All the while, [Alabama politician and former judge Roy] Moore seems to have been the king of hypocrisy. The Washington Post published a devastating account of how he initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old schoolgirl.

The victim said that Moore, then a 32-year-old assistant district attorney, drove the girl to his house, removed her clothes and touched her sexually. Under Alabama law, that apparently constitutes sexual abuse in the second degree. If you want an example of a politician who lost support and was arrested for less egregious behavior, consider Anthony Weiner, the former Democratic member of Congress, who is now in prison for sexting a 15-year-old girl.

— “God Should Sue Roy Moore,” by Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, November 10, 2017

Note that Weiner admitted his transgressions, participated in sex offender therapy, and pleaded guilty.

“sick minds”


'The Sick Rose'.jpg

O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

— William Blake, “The Sick Rose”


“People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook.” — Richard Nixon, November 17, 1973, during a televised question and answer session with the press


I thought of this famous quote from Richard Nixon, because it seemed to me that perhaps I should begin this post by stating that I am not a pedophile. So, I hereby state, “I am not a pedophile.”

Do you do, dear reader, believe me? Consider what happened to me the day before last.



I was in what was (but no longer is) my favorite local park,  in the borough of Queens, NYC, taking photographs, as usual, of the scenery. See sample photo from this particular stroll below.

Juniper Valley Park 5-4-2017

I try to go to the park at different times of the day and take photos in the early morning and late afternoon: sunrise, sunset; light on the grass in different seasons and times of the day; the change of seasons; rain and snow, foliage; spring blossoms.

I am not a professional photographer, but I have recently been taking lots of photos of cityscapes during walks I take almost daily. I have recently found — it has occurred to me through trial and error — that a photo of outdoors scenery can be enhanced by having people in it.

Photos can be ruined if someone walks in front of you just as you take the shot. You don’t want close ups of people. But, say, you are at the beach (when it is not crowded). The interest of the photo for a viewer can often be enhanced, it seems, if people are visible in the background. See below a photo I took at the seashore a couple of months ago.


I had a voila moment in the park on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. It was a gorgeous spring afternoon. Kids were playing on a greensward. Wouldn’t it be great to get them in some of my photos, I thought.

Voila moment, you ask? Three things were fused in my unconscious mind. It was spring. It was a beautiful day. Kids were gamboling, frolicking; playing at games and sports in a freewheeling, unstructured way.

I like to watch kids play. It reminds me of the joy that I and almost everyone took in play growing up. At a time when you didn’t look for guidance or instructions from adults for what to do. You just went outside and started tossing a ball around, playing tag, keepaway, and so forth.

Makes one feel young. Appreciate good health and raw energy.

That’s not how everyone sees it.

I pointed my camera in their direction (the frolicking kids, that is), utilizing the zoom feature, and began shooting away (photographically, that is). Samples of the kinds of photos I was taking are shown below.

May 3.JPG



I didn’t really pay attention to whether they were boys or girls or their ages.



I had more or less finished eagerly taking photos of the greensward with kids playing in the distance. I don’t quite recall, but I think I was putting my camera back into its case when I suddenly became aware of someone saying — demanding of me — at a decibel level just below shouting, in a stern voice, “What are you doing?”

Two middle aged men approached me. I was standing on a walkway that encircles the park.

I felt alarm about I knew not what, just the unpleasant sense of being importuned.

Instinct told me that the best thing to do was to stand my ground, to not act as if I were “guilty” (which I wasn’t, by any measure), of what I wasn’t sure.

So, I answered them firmly but calmly (feigning calmness) by saying, “What do you mean, ‘what are you doing’? Tell me, specifically, just what it is you object to about what I am doing?”

They were basically inarticulate and not inclined to engage in a discussion (should they have been capable of it). But what they objected to was my taking photos of children. The only way they knew I was doing this was the direction my camera was pointed in. I was nowhere near the children, who were perhaps 100 or more feet away from me.

I had trouble answering them and explaining or defending myself. They weren’t inclined to listen. But, I said that I often visited the park, took photos in different seasons, and in fact took photos all over the City. I said that I had recently taken photos in Central Park, that several (but by no means all) of them included kids and no one objected. See two such Central Park photos below.

April 10.jpg

April 27.jpg

I said that I had posted them on Facebook and people admired them.

They were contemptuous of this, didn’t care. Aesthetics isn’t their thing.

They kept haranguing me. I concluded that telling or explaining to them that I experienced aesthetic satisfaction from taking such photos and that others enjoyed them was a waste of time. I therefore said that I was not doing anything illegal. “Call the cops,” I said to them. “There is nothing I am doing that is illegal.”

“We don’t care about the law,” they said. “Don’t take photos of children. Understand? Those are someone’s kids.” They said something about girls, too.

I told them I had children of my own. They weren’t listening. (They themselves were not accompanied by children.)

I tried to remonstrate. One of the guys said, “don’t get on my back!” As a matter of fact, I wasn’t approaching him, I was just standing my ground and answering him back. He didn’t like that. It looked like he was going to punch me.

I started to walk away. “Where are you going?” one of them said. “I’m going home, if that’s okay with you,” I said. “It’s this way.”

I noticed, which I hadn’t up to then, that the wife of one of the guys was standing behind him. She was glaring at me.



The two men who accosted me view themselves as guardians of public morality. They are self-appointed neighborhood “police.” Vigilantes, actually. A sexual predatory-iness patrol/posse.

They have poisoned the well, ruined the park for me. I will never set foot in it again.

It would be too unpleasant for me, basically because of the unpleasant feelings I left with on this particular day. Unpleasant is putting it mildly. I went home in a condition of severe anxiety and under great stress. It took me full day to begin to get over it.



When I got home, I researched on my computer the law on taking photographs in public.

What I found is that

Anyone in a public place can take pictures of anything they want. Public places include parks, sidewalks, malls, etc.

People can be photographed if they are in public (without their consent) unless they have secluded themselves and can expect a reasonable degree of privacy. Kids swimming in a fountain? Okay. Somebody entering their PIN at an ATM? Not okay.

If you are challenged, you do not have to explain why you are taking pictures, nor do you have to disclose your identity (except in some cases when questioned by a law enforcement officer).

In the United States, it is legal to photograph or videotape anything and anyone on any public property.

Photography on private property that is generally open to the public (e.g., a shopping mall) is usually permitted unless explicitly prohibited by posted signs.



Let’s leave the legal issues aside for a moment. It seems that society has gone so over the top, people have become so crazed –and themselves out of control — about smoking out and pursuing sexual predators that wholesome, innocent, blameless things which actually make life pleasant on many levels are no longer tolerated.

The guardians of public morality, the suppositional, amorphous “vice squad” could care less about culture. They see boogeyman everywhere. They impugn bad motives and attribute foul, nefarious desires as a matter of course to innocent persons.

They are philistines.

Self-appointed vice squads. But it’s even worse. They’re vigilantes. They have taken it upon themselves to enforce what they see as the law. They have appointed themselves as enforcers — local, on site “law enforcement” — who will decide what is permissible and take steps to protect the innocence, inviolability, and purity of children, say (theirs and others’), in their neighborhood. Presumably of women too.



The guys in the park obviously regarded me as a predatory pervert. They don’t want my “type” in what they consider to be their park.

It’s a municipal park. Rules for conduct are posted there. The rules are sensible ones crafted to make the park pleasant and prohibiting things like littering and loud music.



People have sick minds.

Not me, THEM.

Read William Blake’s poem above. It’s the speaker in the poem who is sick mentally. The speaker who says, “O Rose thou art sick. ”


— Roger W. Smith

   May 6, 2017




Great art would not be possible if the self-appointed guardians of public morality had their way.


Raphael, 'Aldobrandini Madonna'

Raphael, “Aldobrandini Madonna””

Kiddie porn?


'dejeurner sur l'herbe'

Manet, “Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe”

The work of a voyeur?


'Young Sewing Girl'

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, “Young Sewing Girl”

Did he obtain a signed parental permission slip?


'snap the whip'

Winslow Homer, “Snap the Whip”

Was Homer a closet pederast?




Manhattan is the polar opposite of the outer borough of Queens, where I live, and where the rednecks and philistines who are ever present assume that their views are the only ones that matter.

On the morning of Tuesday, August 15, 2017, I was in Central Park taking photos. Central Park has quite a few big rocks that kids like to climb upon. I noticed a mother and son joyfully playing on one of these rocks, seemingly oblivious to all else, and started snapping photos. The mother turned her head and noticed me. “I hope you don’t mind my taking a photo of you,” I said to her. You look so wonderful and happy playing together.”

“I don’t mind at all,” she said.

IMG_9762 (2).JPG




Below is an exchange of an emails I had with an acquaintance who read my post. He lives in Belgium.


Dear Roger,

I just read your post. I feel sorry for you this happened, and I can feel your disgust about the situation and towards the people who gave you this awful feeling.

Defending yourself, “standing your ground,” was a very human and normal reaction. However, I doubt they would have changed their minds, since they already had a sick, perverted image of you in their heads, an image they clearly would not have been willing to change, even after tons of explanations. I regret this happened to you, I can see there is nothing wrong with your pictures. I am wondering why they made such deductions, why it made them angry in a way they wanted to verbally attack you. It says a lot about them. Keep that in mind. Don’t let them give you a feeling of guilt.


JB — Thanks for the email. I really appreciated it. It was very comforting.

You are right. It as a case of me being the victim of people who “wrongfully thought” of me “based on … their twisted minds.”

You are also right that they were not going to change their minds. They had an idée fixe, an image of me that they formed, instantaneously, on the spot, since they had never seen me before. They were making what is called in an English idiom a “snap judgment.”

And, as you noted, “tons of explanations” — in fact, anything I said — would have done, and did, no good whatsoever.

I appreciate your encouragement.

They are ignoramuses and busybodies who have nothing better to do.

Meddlers. Snoops.

They also have no appreciation of the finer things. But that’s obvious and goes without saying.


unfit to become president?


Here goes.

I want to make a point or two now, while the topic is totally dominating the news and, it seems, is the main topic of practically every conversation.

I have no doubt that few readers of this post will agree with me and that will most will say, “he’s totally wrong.”

But I hate it when people profess moral outrage over things they probably do themselves in the ordinary course of events — or, one should say, in a lifetime. I hate it when people act morally superior or hypocritical.

Few will be inclined to feel the way I do. But I have found, from my own experience, that when everyone thinks one way, it’s usually not right or true — in fact, it’s often the opposite. This seems to happen particularly when everyone is up in arms about a scandal, one that has led to across the board outrage and condemnation.



I tend to be apolitical, but I consider myself to be a liberal. I disapprove strongly of many, if not most, of Donald Trump’s policy positions.

Everyone knows by now that Trump was recorded on an audio tape several years ago making crude sexual comments about a particular woman, and women in general, characterizing them as sexual objects whom he thought would be easy conquests; and that now the audio tape has been made public.

Supposedly, this is the supreme gotcha moment, which everyone — the legions of Trump haters, that is — has been waiting for. The smoking gun that proves for once and for all what has already become a forgone conclusion: that Donald Trump is a misogynist and philanderer who demeans women.

What everyone already knew has been proven. He can’t deny it. It’s like trapping a bear.



Bill Clinton was caught in extremely embarrassing situations with women, some of whom he appears to have treated as sex objects without forming any other sort of relationship with them. I suspect if more of Clinton’s private talk happened to be taped (which it shouldn’t be), it would not all be ennobling or admirable.

Taping is not right. Exposing others’ private lives and secrets is not right. That’s what’s wrong here, not what Donald Trump said to his friend.

People have a right to privacy.

Most of us would be in the same boat if subjected to the same scrutiny as Trump, including myself. There would be things we have said and done which, if made public, would embarrass us beyond belief. Does this prove that you or I is a despicable, immoral person? Not really. Practically everyone has been guilty of private behavior that they would not be proud of.

Scads of men of my own acquaintance have made demeaning and “sexist” remarks; used foul, abusive language; insulted others verbally; boasted about sexual exploits. It goes on all the time. And people now are pretending to be shocked?

I have seen it in my own family and personal circle from people who were highly educated, cultured, and well brought up. I have done it myself.



“I was sickened by what I heard today [Friday, October 7],” House Speaker Paul Ryan said when the story broke.

Really? Sickened? I would say that Ryan is hyper sensitive. And, I am surprised that he has never been exposed to such talk before, which is to say at least heard it, somewhere, either in personal conversations or in the media. He must lead a very sheltered life.

Maybe he needs some Pepto-Bismol to soothe his stomach. But I don’t know. Sickened? He seems to be having a hard time dealing with the Trump revelations. Perhaps he should see a doctor.

“This is horrific,” said Christina Reynolds, a spokeswoman for Hillary Clinton. “We cannot allow this man to become president.”

Ms. Reynolds is paid to make such statements. Who does she think should become president? Hillary Clinton, of course. The wife of Bill Clinton, who — it’s as plain as day — is a serial womanizer who often made crude advances to woman he was attracted to. Did Hillary think that this should have prevented Bill from becoming president? I would aver that Bill Clinton’s behavior with women was actually worse than Trump’s.



The bad thing about all of this – the worst – is it’s just plain unfair to judge anyone’s fitness for practically anything based on what they have said in their private moments when they were at their worst. Because we all have had such moments, have said or done things that we would be mortified to see made public.

It’s actually a distraction from the campaign.

I don’t care who it is: Donald Trump, Prince Charles, or the guy next door. It’s cruel, wrong, and unfair to record people’s private conversations and spy on their private lives. It will often not be to their credit, but this does not prove that they are bad or unfit for public service, because — if we are going to apply such standards — no one will qualify. If such standards – which are really impossible to meet – are to be applied, grim faced and sternly, to Trump, then, in fairness, we will have to reevaluate the characters and fitness for public or private jobs of practically everyone based on this type of scrutiny. Few would pass. And, many people we admire, including those closest to us, would not come off well either.



My father was a well educated, well spoken, and cultured man. He served in the Army during World War II. I am sure he heard his share of curses and ribald stories. He may have told them himself. As a professional musician, he worked in clubs with other musicians who would swap dirty jokes. Does this make me respect my father less or blanch at his character? Absolutely not. If anything, it makes him seem human.


— Roger W. Smith

  October 9, 2016




My older son, Henry W. Smith, emailed me about this post. His comments included the following:

I agree that some people are judging Trump hypocritically; however, if he didn’t make a lot of misogynist comments, it wouldn’t give people verbal ammunition against him.

What’s unfortunate, to me, is the nature of how it was captured.

Also, not everybody talks that way.

I thought his remarks were very perceptive and that they identified possibly weak points in my argument.

My son’s comment that “not everybody talks that way” caused me to do some more thinking about this.

I said above that “[s]cads of men of my own acquaintance have made demeaning and ‘sexist’ remarks; used foul, abusive language; insulted others verbally; boasted about sexual exploits. It goes on all the time.”

Actually, I have not heard sexual banter or “locker room talk” often. Most men seem to be more restrained and discreet. I have often encountered crude language, vulgarity, talk about women who are considered “hot,” and, occasionally, more frank sexual talk. But, “boasting about sexual exploits” or conquests? Very infrequently.

What I have seen is people saying things — with sexual content or of another nature — that they would they would not want recorded or quoted.

I do think, as my son agreed, that the main issue with regard to the Trump revelations was invasion of privacy, which I believe is wrong. And, I am not shocked by what Donald Trump said.

See also:

“Men Say Trump’s Remarks on Sex and Women Are Beyond the Pale,” The New York Times, October 8, 2016

The content of the article is consistent with the assessment that men do not ordinarily engage in such talk.

— Roger W. Smith




Note that I said above:

Taping is not right. Exposing others’ private lives and secrets is not right. That’s what’s wrong here, not what Donald Trump said to his friend.

People have a right to privacy.

A relative wrote back to me, via email, that this was different, because it was an interview (of Trump).

It was not an interview.

What my relative is doing is something that Trump haters and PC types like to do when making accusations. Use facts selectively and twist them to support their allegations.

What Trump said does not invalidate my point.

Roger W. Smith, “Reflections on Public Morality (occasioned by the Lewinsky scandal)”


Note: what follows was written by me as an email to Gilbert T. Sewall, the head of an academic foundation for whom I was doing editorial work, in January 1998, when the Monica Lewinsky scandal had just broken.

— Roger W. Smith



Dear Gil:

Just thought I would send you a missive containing various musings on the day’s news.

I’m starting to feel that the media feeding frenzy is wrong.

I’ve already perused (I should say devoured) all the Clinton stories in this morning’s Times; watched a bit of the Today show; started to read the Wall Street  Journal on the same subject (e.g., an Albert Hunt column which caused me to do some ruminating); and bought the Post, Daily News, and Newsday.

The Post has five or six pages devoted to the latest revelations, with photos and all.

Starved for pictures, the media has taken to running high school yearbook photos of Ms. Lewinsky at various stages (freshman, sophomore, junior, etc.).

Anyway, I’ve been gorging myself on all the Clinton stories (question: do you think the photo of him and Hillary embracing in bathing suits a week or so ago was staged?), but I’m beginning to feel sated, like someone who’s overindulged on junk food.

A few thoughts:

I don’t believe Clinton’s denials in this instance, in the Paula Jones case, or with regard to the Jennifer Flowers revelations. It’s sort of amusing to “deconstruct” Clinton’s remarks and to see how carefully and artfully/legalistically worded they are: I was never in the hotel alone with her (Paula Jones); there is (at present) no sexual relationship; I didn’t do anything improper; I don’t recall (meeting her); and so forth.

I have been disappointed in a lot of Clinton’s public pronouncements lately. I don’t find him particularly credible in a lot of instances, and he also seems to be inclined to speak in a mishmash that verges on the ludicrous: let’s all have a dialogue about race; and he really did mean it when he said (a year and a half or so ago) that the troops would be out of Bosnia within 18 months. He’s always hedging, equivocating, and speaking in platitudes; his politico-speak is egregious.

I heard him on NPR a month or so ago speaking about the Asian economic crisis just after one of Japan’s biggest financial services firms had failed, and he was claiming it was nothing to be concerned about  (just a mere “blip on the screen”) — that the Japanese economy was really healthy — and I felt and thought that he sounded like a real idiot whose remarks had no grounding whatsoever in fact or current realities, that he could care less what the facts were as long as whatever he said sounded good for public consumption and would wash.

Having said all that, I think we as a nation — with respect to our collective consciousness, so to speak — are awash in hypocrisy.

Why do the Gospels speak to us with such power and resonance? Why do sayings like “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” have such staying power? Jesus was a genius to speak as he did in parables. Everything is so pithy and epigrammatic, yet so homely and concrete (grounded in stark, memorable stories).

Anyway, to me the level of public hypocrisy is absolutely amazing.

Everyone is saying, well, if Clinton did in fact do such and such a thing, it’s totally reprehensible and he should be impeached. Now, what, at the worst, have he and his accomplices done? Some of them have done things (it seems) that should, by public standards of morality, be deemed immoral: e.g., crude sexual advances in the Paula Jones case; adultery (Jennifer Flowers and the current case); an affair with a women some 20 or more years his junior; lying; orchestrating (allegedly) a “cover up” in which the “partner in crime” (co-adulterer/ess) is urged to deny his or her involvement as well.

So what?

Have not we all – as per Walt Whitman in his wonderful poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” — “Blabb’d, blush’d, resented, lied, stole, grudg’d, / Had guile, anger, lust, hot wishes I dared not speak”?

Let’s sick the snoops on all of us — I would especially like to see this happen to the Sam Donaldsons and George Wills of the world — and see what they turn up. What is called for are Starr Chamber type proceedings; no denials or lies whatsoever will be accepted.

Have you ever been to a psychiatrist? Purchased or read obscene material?  Viewed pornography? Had an affair in which you behaved less than admirably? Have you in any way, at any time, ever patronized the commercial sex industry?

You say the infractions were minor and are past history. Sorry. We are going to dredge them all up now and muck around in your murky past to see what we can find. It’s a question of CHARACTER. Yours.

You say you are a moral person whose life on a whole has been conducted and governed by appropriate rules of conduct? We have Mr. or Ms. so and so here who became intimately acquainted with you some 20 years ago when you were somewhat looser in your moral standards, or at least less considerate of others’ feelings, and this individual is prepared to testify that you acted in a loutish way and caused him or her considerable pain and distress. They have old scores to settle and (for a price) are willing to tell all.

You say this is all irrelevant because your mental faculties and judgment are unimpaired; you have dealt with and put behind you the issues of the past; that, to the extent you’ve made errors, you acknowledge them and won’t let them happen again (or at least will try not to, and you probably won’t, because you’re older, less passionate and headstrong, and more mature now). Sorry, that doesn’t count, because your past is reflected in the trust we can put on you now. It’s the credibility/character thing.

Why must our public servants be totally blameless, flawless individuals, without the slightest blemish or taint, and what does this have to do with their ability to exercise power or govern? What if all corporate execs were put under the same spotlight (though the politically correct crowd would probably like it if they were)?

What does the fact that she may or may not have had an illegal nanny have to do with whether or not Zoë Baird is qualified to be attorney general?

Truly, this age will be looked back on, through the lens or prism of history, as one of stark raving collective madness.

I must admit that the Vernon Jordan link of arranging a job at MacAndrews & Forbes (Revlon) for Ms. Lewinsky and of getting the same firm to give consulting work to Webster Hubbell does look fishy. But this Tripp woman who taped her own conversations with Ms. Lewinsky sounds like a vindictive bitch. It’s good old John DeLorean style entrapment. (I’m glad he was acquitted, because I didn’t think it was fair the ways the feds set him up.)

It’s a pretty sleazy business, isn’t it? The front page of today’s Newsday reads “The Relationship Was Not Sexual” (in quotes). That’s the tactic now: print the charge, then make the denial the story.

Honestly, I think the accusers (media) are worse than the accused (Clinton). I’m convinced he’s a womanizer, a prevaricator (to put it kindly), and a sexual “opportunist” (and probably male chauvinist pig, to boot), but I honestly don’t believe that whatever he has done is that criminal or bad and is grounds for impeachment.

I repeat, if all our own private sins and peccadilloes — be they sexual, or other embarrassing private things we would rather not come out, like psychological impairments, or problems with private relationships and/or erratic or strange behavior patterns, likes/dislikes, prejudices, and other secret thoughts we wouldn’t care to admit to (least of all publicly) — came out in the open, it would be real horror show and feeding frenzy for anyone who cared to notice. I am convinced that this is true of practically everyone and of all the media types who so sanctimoniously intone about the seriousness of these allegations, and I’d like to see them forced to undergo public scrutiny and to twist and turn in the wind.

But you know, there’s something funny, when you’re smacking your lips (this, I admit, includes me) and tut-tutting, and sort of secretly enjoying, the latest revelations about Clinton’s misdeeds, or Hugh Grant’s, or Prince Charles’s, or any other public figure, there’s a tendency to forget one’s own troubles and one’s own vulnerability to exposure (should anyone have the means or desire to do so), and therein probably lie the charm and attraction of such feeding frenzies. How enjoyable it is to laugh at others’ misfortunes, and what sadistic pleasure we take in seeing the high and mighty caught in a trap and entangled in their own lies.

— Roger W. Smith, email to Gilbert T. Sewall, January 1998