The Unbearable Anti-Left Russia Hysteria

On February 16, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller indicted  13  Russians on  charges of interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election through social media. Much of the information in the indictments had previously been reported, in Russia and in the U.S. The focus was the St. Petersburg-Internet Research Agency, also known as the “troll factory,” and how it allegedly disrupted the 2016 election and — it is increasingly suggested — elected Donald Trump.

The indictments will not likely lead to any extraditions or prosecutions, but the media’s obsessive focus on the topic has convinced just about everyone that Russian election interference was sweeping and decisive. And of course anyone who voted for Bernie Sanders in the primaries or Jill Stein in the general election are now generally seen as dupes of the Russian operation — even though the ads in those candidates’ favor were poorly funded, tiny in number and often based around memes that were already widely circulating.

Overall, Rob Goldman, VP of Advertising at Facebook, tweeted, “The majority of the Russian ad spend happened AFTER the election. We shared that fact, but very few outlets have covered it because it doesn’t align with the main media narrative of Trump and the election.” Goldman was savaged for this in the press — especially after Trump tweeted out his comments –and later apologized, but what he had said about the timing was true.

These realities haven’t stopped mainstream media and establishment pundits from suggesting that Sanders’s entire campaign was tainted. “Sanders silent on claim that Russians backed him in 2016” ran a Politico headline. Also joining in were MSNBC’s Ari Melber and Joy Reid, and Clinton superfan Peter Daou, who all thought it imperative that Sanders apologize because Russian trolls paid for ads, without his knowledge, such as this “Buff Bernie” ad, which we are to believe influenced large numbers of LGBT voters. By the same logic, Reid should apologize for having her work boosted more than 200 times by Russia trolls.

Jill Stein has also been effectively accused of treason and turned into a major scapegoat for Trump’s election based on the now accepted assumption that every one of her voters would have cast their ballot for Hillary Clinton if she hadn’t run. Various studies and polls suggest otherwise, and it’s hard to imagine that the one Russia ad cited in the indictment won her any support: “On or about November 3, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators purchased an advertisement to promote a post on the ORGANIZATION-controlled Instagram account “Blacktivist” that read in part: “choose peace and vote for Jill Stein. Trust me, it’s not a wasted vote.”

At this point the Russia-gate narrative is targeting the left — Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, Black Lives Matter, and other activist groups — with almost as much fervor as it is Trump. The hysteria surrounding these claims is having a profound impact on the political discourse, to the point that expressing concern about the Parkland school shootings can now make you an unwitting dupe of Russian trolls.

 

A Talk With Yasha Levine, Author Of “Surveillance Valley,” Part 2

[Editor’s Note: Yesterday we published the first part of a conversation with Yasha Levine, author of the newly released book, Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet (Click here to buy).  We pick up today with Part 2, in which Levine discusses how the web browser Tor may facilitate surveillance, not privacy.]

 In 2008, following a request from the Broadcasting Board of Governors, Tor developed its Russian deployment plan, translating and redesigning the software for Russian language users. At that time, the Tor Project contacted privacy activists in Russia to see what they thought of the plan.

According to Levine, one of the activists warned Tor that it was unwanted and unnecessary in Russia. He said that while Tor is a useful product in some situations, there wasn’t actually a censorship system on the Russian internet. “Everything’s open, you can go to websites and read anything you want. Why would you want to even deploy Tor in Russia, when it’s unnecessary?”

The activist then asked the representative from Tor if the rumors were true. Was Tor connected to the U.S. State Department?

“Of course, the Tor Project didn’t reply to that question,” Levine says. “Because what could it say, y’know?”

Soon enough, Russia got its own version of Tor. “This coincided with the increasingly aggressive position that the U.S. is taking against Russia,” Levine says.  “While I don’t think the Tor Project directly created internet censorship in Russia, it did help foster a climate of paranoia, and the fear that the U.S. government was using this new technology to somehow make Russian intelligence agencies impotent on the internet.”

And it was coupled with popular protests and things that happened in 2010 and 2011 that were organized on Facebook against President Putin and the Parliament there, because there were irregularities in the election. So there were these two things. There was Tor being deployed as a way to allow Russians to bypass government controls that didn’t yet exist. Meanwhile, the Russians were increasingly using social media to organize politically and stage massive rallies against the government. And those two things together helped create a censorship system that exists now and is getting more draconian every day.

This is the other face of Tor, a tool that Washington can use to provoke and ratcheting up paranoia in places like China and Russia. It’s a modern twist on the “containment” policies of the Cold War. And while the software seems to be great for the State Department, there are serious problems with Tor for activists and other end users. According to one report, 81% of Tor users can be de-anonymized through traffic analysis. And properly using Tor involves operational security that is beyond the ability of most people to stick with consistently.

“I believe that Tor is actually not very secure,” Levine says. “In fact, when you dedicate a good amount of law enforcement effort to find out who’s behind a site, it usually pays off, and it’s pretty quick.”

One Tor user who put his faith in the software, only to get burned when it proved to be less than bulletproof, is Ross Ulbricht. Also known as “Dread Pirate Roberts,” Ulbricht is currently serving life without parole for crimes relating to the operation of the infamous dark web drug marketplace, the Silk Road. While he might have been Dread Pirate Roberts in his fantasy life, in real life Ulbricht was no match for the Tor Project’s less-than-perfect software.

“He kept a log,” Levine says, “he’d always be saying things like: Oh, shit. The Tor server crashed again and exposed my IP address. And it would happen multiple times, right? And so you think, this guy’s running a massive illegal business in plain sight, taunting law enforcement. He believes in this software to the point where he’s staking his life on it. And there’s not even a doubt in his head when the server that’s supposed to be impenetrable crashes all the time and leaks his IP address. And that’s how he was caught.”

There are those in the privacy movement who see Ulbricht as a martyr to the surveillance state. Levine sees Ulbricht as a different kind of martyr. 

“I see him as a martyr for the bullshit libertarian ideology that is being sold to us,” Levine says. “You know, he believed in this. He believed that a tool made by ten people could protect him from the FBI and the DEA. And the propaganda was so strong, and it was encouraged by Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, and they were made into these heroes by organizations like The Intercept and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Of course, some guy, some dweeb from Texas will believe this stuff. So he basically gave up his life chasing a lie.”

In addition to the diplomatic usefulness of Tor, there’s yet another reason that the software is being promoted by the government, nonprofits, and Silicon Valley.

“It gives people the illusion that they’re engaging in meaningful privacy politics,” Levine says, “while actually doing nothing of the sort.” There is little real political activism around internet privacy, because it is “so obsessed with privacy technology, so obsessed with privacy apps that people have effectively outsourced their politics to an app.”

Privacy-by-app is a free market approach, one that runs counter to the realities of political activism and political change. And it’s embraced by corporations precisely because it lets them off the hook. ”There’s no privacy movement to join that says we should limit the amount of information that Google collects on us. There’s no organization that I know of. But there are a lot of organizations promoting Signal and promoting Tor as the way to get your privacy back.” And these organizations are well-funded by Silicon Valley. 

“Privacy is a political problem,” Levine says, “not a technological problem. And the only way to solve privacy is politically, not technologically. So this crypto culture is really toxic, and I think it’s done a lot of damage. It has set back the fight to reign in the surveillance power of Silicon Valley.”

Internet Freedom And Regime Change: A Talk With Yasha Levine, Author Of “Surveillance Valley” Part 1

Surveillance by governments or corporations is not an accidental byproduct of networking technology. Indeed, it’s no exaggeration to say that surveillance is “baked in,” that it’s a feature of the wired world we live in. While the founding myth of Silicon Valley focuses on apolitical geniuses “inventing the future” in suburban California garages, the reality is that the internet was born in Pentagon-sponsored projects with tangible military objectives. The internet might be file sharing and email, but it’s also PRISM and DHS Fusion Centers.

 The interface between academia, corporations, and the military that created the internet during the Cold War isn’t just the stuff of history books, either. Even today, the whole “crypto culture” of Silicon Valley plays an important part in the machinations of the Pentagon and the State Department.

Tor is an anonymous browsing tool promoted by Edward Snowden, WikiLeaks, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and others as a way to strike back against the ever-encroaching surveillance state. The truth is that Tor was never all that reliable to begin with, and it’s far more useful to the State Department as a tool of containment and regime change than it ever was to political activists in the United States.

 Yasha Levine is an investigative journalist and the author of Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet (PublicAffairs Books). We spoke recently about the role of Tor in State Department “soft power” plays abroad, and how its adoption by activists might actually impede true political change at home.

 Tor (short for “the onion router”) is software that bounces web traffic through a random selection of servers, making it difficult (if not impossible) for the computer on the receiving end to determine where the data originated. It first came on Levine’s radar with the sudden arrival of Edward Snowden on the world stage in 2013.

 “In that very first image,” he says, “we saw that he had a Tor Project sticker on his laptop.” And as Snowden told the world press his story, he emphasized the important role that Tor played in the leaks, allowing him to steal a remarkable number of documents from the NSA. “The Tor project was presented as this incredible cloaking tool, an anonymity tool that really equalized power between an individual and the most powerful surveillance agency in the world.”

 This struck Levine as an odd juxtaposition — a whistleblower like Snowden promoting software that was being paid for by the U.S. government. The fact that Tor began as a product of Naval Intelligence has never been a secret. However, the amount of funding that the Tor Project receives from the government, and the nature of the relationship between Tor and the United States government, was still something of a mystery when Levine began filing FOIA requests with the various different government agencies that dealt with the Tor Project or provided funding.

“As best as I could have calculated,” he says, based on his research, “anywhere from 90-99 percent” of Tor’s funding comes from a State Department agency called the Broadcasting Board of Governors, through the something called the Open Technology Fund. The BBG is essentially a government propaganda agency, engaged in “propaganda warfare, subversion, and soft-power projection against countries and foreign political movements deemed hostile to US interests.” And Tor is not the only recipient of Open Technology Fund money. Open Whisper Systems (makers of the Signal encrypted chat app), CryptoCat, LEAP (an email encryption startup) and others have received funding as well.

According to the Tor Project and its supporters, the Open Technology Fund is a representative of the “good” government, which cares about human rights and free speech, while agencies like the NSA and CIA are “bad” government. If that theory doesn’t work for you, then try on this for size: The big, slow, almond-sized lizard brain of Uncle Sam doesn’t really understand the internet; the government is too dumb to understand that it’s funding its own defeat through the the hacktivists of the Tor Project.

Levine disputes this, basing his conclusions on his extensive research and on “thousands and thousands” of emails and contracts between the Tor Project and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (received through FOIA requests):

It’s not a picture of an aloof government agency that’s giving some money to this spunky nonprofit and doesn’t even know what it’s doing. The reality is that there is extremely tight integration between the Broadcasting Board of Governors and the Tor Project. I mean, there’s almost daily email communication. There are progress reports every month that are being filed by the Tor project, highlighting what their employees did that month, where they went, who they talked to, what they talked about. And there are updates on the progress of its contractual obligations to the Broadcasting Board of Governors…When Tor gets money from the Broadcasting Board of Governors, it comes not as an open-ended grant, but as a contract for work. And that contract has clauses, and those clauses have to be met for the money to continue to come the next month. The work that the Tor Project does is very specific, and it comes out of the geopolitical objectives that the Broadcasting Board of Governors is trying to push that month or that year.

He’s not describing a radical hacktivist cell, even if that’s how the Tor Project and its supporters see themselves. He’s describing a defense contractor, a nonprofit corporation with a federal contractor number, taking money from the federal government to develop software for its own use.

Tor, Levine says, is “a boutique cybersecurity firm.”

It’s impossible to pinpoint exactly how intelligence agencies and the military uses Tor — who knows what the hell really goes on in the hallways of Langley, Fort Meade, or the Pentagon? — but there are a few specific military applications of the technology that Levine knows about. One example is open source intelligence gathering. Tor is the software that Chelsea Manning used to monitor online extremist groups while she was stationed in Iraq. The program allowed her to mask her identity, so that the hosts of radical Islamic websites and forums wouldn’t see that they’d been visited by someone with a U.S. military IP address.

 Another example would be the likely use of Tor by intelligence agencies to hide the physical infrastructure of military intelligence networks and servers. “In the same way that Tor hides a server that’s running a dark web marketplace like the Silk Road,” Levine says, “the same can be done for a CIA intelligence drop. If you want someone to put information somewhere but not be able to trace it, you would run it as a hidden service on the Tor network. Once you go to the Tor cloud, you can disappear from view.”

 The only reason the Tor software was released to the public at all is because it only works when a large, disparate group of users exists to help obscure traffic for the entire network. Sure, it’s a shame that drug dealers and software pirates and kiddie porn brokers are using Tor, but those criminals are precisely what allows the government to better mask its own web traffic.

 In addition to providing cover to spies online, Tor has been used as a “soft power” tool by the State Department since the turn of the 21st century. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, according to Levine, “America kind of re-doubled its propaganda efforts aimed at undermining communist ideology and focused them on China.” Radio Free Asia (a CIA project from the 1950s) was taken out of mothballs and used to broadcast anti-communist propaganda aimed at China. This prompted China to jam the stations. In turn, Radio Free Asia began broadcasting on the internet. Once that started happening, China began blocking those websites, which it saw as foreign propaganda.

“That was during the Bush administration, which saw the Chinese actions as an attack on free trade,” Levine says. “You know, the internet’s not just a communications medium, it’s also a marketplace. The Bush administration saw the censorship as almost like an act of war, and it began to scratch around and fund various organizations that were developing anti-censorship technology, tools that could be used to punch through the Great Firewall.”

 Tor was first released to the public in 2003. “It was a tool that was very attractive to the government,” Levine says, “as a kind of a digital crowbar that could jimmy open the Great Firewall and prevent China from regulating its own internet space.”

END, PART 1

 

The Trump Presidential Train Wreck: A Preliminary Assessment

Donald Trump lied and weaseled his way through business dealings and bankruptcy, yet won the White House despite having no political experience. His presidential campaign was marked by gaffes and misstatements, and triggered circus-like media coverage that obsessed over his rhetoric and paid little heed to his likely policies.

The mainstream media and political establishment has yet to figure out how to deal with Trump. He still sounds as unhinged and arrogant as he did on the campaign trail, while his administration has been held together with help from former Goldman Sachs alumni and neocons who hopped on the Trump bandwagon.

So what has the Trump administration accomplished to date?

He and Republicans came up short of an outright repeal of Obamacare, but they’ve deregulated and defunded the system at the state level. On October 12 he issued an executive order claiming it would make the marketplace more competitive. In reality,  it will keep Americans from signing up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  In addition, Trump recently gave employers’ the right to choose whether their health insurance plans will cover birth control.

For Trump, environmental protection is seen as an impediment to grabbing resources and profits. His Department of Interior is pushing an unprecedented attack on the Antiquities Act and the National Park Service. Trump’s EPA has handed the agency over to energy lobbyists, while scientists are pushed out and the administration promotes Arctic oil drilling projects. Meanwhile, Republicans are pushing to gut or repeal the Endangered Species Act and rules on clean water and air.

Trump’s foreign policy has been an extension of the reckless interventionism of his predecessors. He’s deployed additional  forces in Afghanistan and Syria, and dispatched new troops to Niger, Cameroon, Uganda and South Sudan, with no clear strategy for what the U.S. is doing there. Depending on which day of the week it is, Trump threatens war in North Korea, Venezuela, Iran or elsewhere. One of these days it seems inevitable that he’ll move forward.

Democrats and Republicans joined together to give the Trump administration $700 billion for the military budget, which was more than requested and an increase of $70 billion from the previous year. Multibillion dollar weapons deals with Saudi Arabia continue to fuel human rights abuses in Yemen.

Secretary of Education Betsy Devos is pursuing privatization through deregulation. She has scaled back federal loans for college students, rescinded campus sexual assault guidelines, and revoked public service college loan forgiveness.  The Republican tax plan makes it exceedingly difficult for graduate students to complete their education without being further burdened by debt.

Trump has targeted civil and voting rights, and made a personal crusade of opposing NFL protests started by Colin Kaepernick against racism and police brutality. He has pushed to ban transgender persons from serving in the military, and his attorney general ended workplace discrimination protections for them. His immigration policy is based on xenophobia, especially towards those seeking to come to the U.S. from poor  countries.

Despite the 1 percent’s uncertainty about Trump, mostly due to his instability and general unpopularity, it has immensely profited from Trump’s presidency. His administration passed a tax reform bill that provides drastic cuts for the wealthy and an even larger burden on the middle class, and is seeking to slash budgets for social programs that have been gutted for decades.

In a sense, Trump’ may be less interested in major programatic accomplishments than he is in quietly and relentlessly stripping away impediments to greater political and economic power for the corporate class. It’s a pretty grim picture, especially given the feckless pushback by top Democrats.

It remains to be seen if the country will learn anything from last year’s awful election between two supremely terrible candidates, and the early stages of Trump’s presidency. If not, we appear headed towards a period of unparalleled economic prosperity for the few and a road to nowhere for the rest of us.

This May Be Year That Country Officially Goes Nuts

When future historians look back upon this era it will be very hard to conclude that the Russiagate tale did not drive the country completely, and perhaps permanently, off the deep end. It’s become virtually impossible to have a rational discussion on the topic, because the debate isn’t about facts, it’s about politics.

Let me state here — as one still must do when writing about Russiagate while not simultaneously demanding the immediate impeachment of Donald Trump — that I’m not a fan of the president. I spent most of 2017 working on a project for Global Witness that looked at a Trump project in Panama and how he benefited from a massive inflow of funds from Russian criminal networks and Colombian narcotics traffickers.

So I must be in the tank for the Democrats, right? On the other hand, I wrote a lot of critical pieces about Hillary Clinton in 2016 — hey, I thought she was going to be president — so clearly I’m pro-Trump.  In today’s environment, if you don’t explicitly take one side, you must be on the other side. (Disclosure: My side is I hope Trump gets voted out of office but I’m against impeachment unless someone can show he committed “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”)

Liberal paranoia and craziness on the topic of Russiagate has not matched the right’s lunacy during the Obama years, i.e. Birtherism, but it may yet. And just as right-wing hysteria about Obama proved to be a cash cow for conservatives, plenty of liberals are cashing in on the anti-Trump movement.

Just over the weekend, came fresh signs of duplicity among some in the #Resistance. Eric Garland‏, who became a hero to the anti-Trump crowd with his deranged “game theory” tweet “storm,” had a new thread where he proposed that the Ferguson protests and riots in 2014 may have been a “PsyOp.” Why did anyone ever take this guy seriously?

Then there was a tweet from Amy Siskind, a former Wall Street executive who has attracted quite a following among liberals. “Well, this is telling: The Economist has downgraded the US from ‘full democracy’ to ‘flawed democracy because of a further erosion of trust in government and elected officials under Trump,” she wrote.

What was more telling was that thousands of people retweeted her post even though she linked to the magazine’s 2016 “Democracy Index,” released over a year ago, during Trump’s first week in office, and which specifically said Trump was not a factor in the downgrade. “By tapping a deep strain of political disaffection with the functioning of democracy, Mr. Trump became a beneficiary of the low esteem in which U.S. voters hold their government, elected representatives and political parties, but he was not responsible for a problem that has had a long gestation,” said the Index.

By the way, The Economist‘s 2017 Index recently came out. The U.S. is still rated as a “flawed democracy” and it’s overall score remained the same as it was for 2016, and for the same reasons. Trump may be a danger to democracy, but our political system was broken for a long time before he took office. indeed, that’s why he holds it.)

Democratic consultant Scott Dworkin, another top #Resistance figure, tweeted over the weekend  that he had an “exclusive” story about a decade-old interview Eric Trump gave to the Russian publication Home Overseas. In the interview, he said, “in the New York hotel-condominium Trump SoHo the bulk of buyers are foreigners, among whom there are a lot of Russians…We very much count on good demand from the Russians.”

It’s an interesting quote, but this “exclusive” was reported by Seth Hettena in August 2017, so there is nothing exclusive about it. But it’s part of a pattern by Dworkin, who raises a lot of money, much which goes into his own pockets, and uses “scoops” like this to raise his standing, and more money.

“The liberal grift is on,” is the headline of a new story by Ryan Cooper in The Week. He writes “that the fact of people being totally unhinged about Russia does not mean Russia did not interfere with the 2016 election in various ways.” (In fact, he believes Russia did interfere and that figures in the Trump administration asked for its help.) But, he adds, it’s “critical to remain grounded and not give into the cheap dopamine hit of hysterical conspiracy nonsense.”

Good luck.

 

The Continued Smearing Of Paul Robeson And What It Tells Us About Black Lives Matter And The NFL

Last week saw the publication of two columns that showed how liberals and leftists  continue to misrepresent Paul Robeson, the legendary artist and intellectual giant. First up was Simon Callow in the New York Review of Books, who replayed talking points dating to the Cold War to portray Robeson as a naive African American and willing dupe of Joseph Stalin.

Those charges stemmed from 1949, when Robeson traveled to France to attend a Soviet Union-sponsored Paris Peace Conference. According to this account in Smithsonian:

After singing “Joe Hill,” the famous ballad about a Swedish-born union activist falsely accused and convicted of murder and executed in Utah in 1915, Robeson addressed the audience and began speaking extemporaneously, as he often did, about the lives of black people in the United States. Robeson’s main point was that World War III was not inevitable, as many Americans did not want war with the Soviet Union.

Before he took the stage, however, his speech had somehow already been transcribed and dispatched back to the United States by the Associated Press. By the following day, editorialists and politicians had branded Robeson a communist traitor for insinuating that black Americans would not fight in a war against the Soviet Union.

Historians would later discover that Robeson had been misquoted, but the damage had been almost instantly done. It was the beginning of the end for Robeson, who would soon be declared “the Kremlin’s voice of America” by a witness at hearings by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). 

Baseball star Jackie Robinson was soon summoned to Washington to talk to HUAC and he also denounced Robeson, which was an especially painful blow. (Robinson later expressed regret for his remarks.) Before long Robeson’s passport was revoked and dozens of his concerts were  canceled. Some in the press called for his execution and he was accused — in an uncanny parallel to today’s Russia scare — of helping the Soviet Union divide the country by merely talking about racism. (As if racism in America wouldn’t exist, then or now, if not for the work of Russian propagandists.)

Greg Godels wrote a more interesting story about Robeson in reply to Callow but it unfortunately wandered off into armchair psycho-analytical balderdash. Later in life Robeson suffered from mental illness and depression. For Callow, “Robeson’s bad faith was responsible for mental issues and ill health. It was not a medical condition, the emotional stress of racism, or the repression of his political views that explain his decline. Instead, it was the consequences of bad politics.”

This also seems to be a case of blaming the victim. Robeson’s film work was pretty spotty but he was one of the finest intellectuals and stage talents of the last century. His musical recordings are to my mind some of the best ever recorded. His open pride in being Black was prophetic and served as an antecedent of the Black Power movement of the late 1960s and ’70s. He was a peer and comrade of W.E.B. and Shirley Graham Du Bois, two giants of scholarship and activism. His views may not have been perfect — whose are? — but it’s doubtful that his decline was due to “bad politics.”

So what accounts for his mental illness? I don’t doubt for a second that he was the victim of systematic FBI harassment and surveillance, which has been demonstrated by released FBI files. However, I am doubtful about the claim of his son and late biographer, Paul Robeson, Jr., that father was subjected to an MK-ULTRA dosing of hallucinogens, which helped provoke his decline.

Instead, here’s another possible explanation that hasn’t been discussed, and while admittedly speculative should be considered. Credit here goes to Paul Buhle, who is currently working on a graphic novel biography of Robeson, for suggesting this notion. It bears mentioning Robeson Junior died in 2014, just as the CTE concussion scandal in the NFL was breaking into the headlines.

Robeson was a football star at Rutgers. Playing in the 1910’s, his white teammates subjected him to brutal treatment. Indeed, his nose was broken and shoulder dislocated during try outs. It’s virtually certain that he received numerous concussions due to the attacks he suffered by his teammates and Rutgers’ opponents, especially given that players wore flimsy leather protective helmets at the time.

Isolation and illness helped make Robeson a recluse at the end of his life. Instead of blaming this on his politics or portraying him as a traitor, it’s worth focusing on the intense institutional racism of his time and his athletic history, especially given what we now know about the connection between football and brain injuries, and its relevance to the lives of Black athletes today.

New Story On How “Fighting” Trump Has Become #Resistance Cash Cow

We ran a story last month by Amy Sterling Casil about Scott Dworkin, a #Resistance leader who has hopped aboard a first class seat on the Anti-Trump Gravy Train while apparently doing very little to effectively fight Donald Trump. The story showed that Dowrkin, a Twitter personality and MSNBC regular, had raised plenty of cash for the Democratic Coalition against Trump, a Super PAC he co-founded, but much of that money went to consulting firms owned by him and a few buddies.

Dowrkin has claimed to be a leader in the effort to impeach Trump by showing what he says is “collaboration” between him and Vladimir Putin’s government. But a billboard slamming California member of Congress Devin Nunes is the only major expenditure directly related to “opposing Trump” on his Super PAC’s mid-year 2017 financial disclosure report. That cost less than $2,000, one percent of his group’s revenue.  At least 80 percent went to consulting firms owned by Dworkin and four political colleagues.

Now the Daily Beast has a story — “WELCOME TO THE RE$I$TANCE!; Cash for Coalition Against Trump Going Into Consultants’ Pockets Instead” — which reveals additional details about Dworkin’s group. Here’s an excerpt:

The Democratic Coalition, one of the many new progressive-minded organizations to bloom in the age of anti-Trump fervor, brought in nearly half a million dollars last year. Its donors include…a pair of Hollywood television producers, a former Real Housewife of Miami, and a member of the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors. The vast majority of its funds, however, have come from people whose names don’t make it into Federal Election Commission disclosures: the small, “unitemized” donors who give $200 or less.

It’s what the group has done with its money—not how much it has brought in—that has raised eyebrows among other operatives.

The Democratic Coalition paid more than half of the money it raised last year to its employees or their consulting firms, according to Federal Election Commission records. Dworkin’s Bulldog Finance Group was the chief beneficiary, drawing more than $130,000 from The Democratic Coalition.

Read the whole story here.

 

Joe Kennedy III: Latest Hope of Anti-Sanders Dems

Oprah. Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. Dwayne Johnson, “The Rock.” Now comes Congressman Joe Kennedy III as the latest name floated as the potential Democratic nominee for 2020.

Kennedy III denies he’ll run (though he’s clearly looking towards a future bid for a Massachusetts senate seat) but the media loves the idea.  Politico had a story today suggesting that while he probably won’t be a candidate, he “Could Be the Democrats’ Best Hope.”

Anyone delusional or desperate enough to think that Joe III offers the country political hope can disabuse themselves of that notion by spending five minutes online at OpenSecrets.org. Kennedy III’s largest political contributors by industry are Lawyers & Law Firms and Securities & Investment firms. Large donors and PACs provide him with almost three-quarters of his total donations.

A few days ago, Kennedy III attacked Paul Ryan for the latter’s idiotic tweet in which he “pointed to a secretary’s $1.50 weekly increase in take-home pay as a sign of the Republican tax plan’s success.” Kennedy III tweeted back, “Meanwhile the wealthiest 0.1% of Americans receive an extra $3,000 per week.”

Which means Kennedy III is in for a big increase in his federal allowance, since his net worth hovers between $40 million and $50 million. (The average income of the top one percent is about $1.1 million.) His stock portfolio over the years has been heavy on oil and gas, Wall Street firms and pharmaceuticals, and he currently has notable holdings in ExxonMobil, Wal-Mart, Amazon and Waste Management Inc.

Kennedy III’s politics could be worse but in the end he’s a relatively cautious, vapid centrist — which is exactly what the establishment wing of the Democratic Party (and its donor base) craves. It’s bereft of ideas and desperately needs a candidate to confront the despised Bernie Sanders in the primaries. Kennedy III isn’t likely to be that candidate, but he’s one of the many trial balloons that will be floated until an anti-Sanders challenger is found.

Note: For more on the pro-Joe crowd, see Chris Lehmann’s excellent story in Baffler.  “Handed a golden opportunity to deliver a forward-looking message in response to a lackluster state of the union address by the least popular first-term president in modern history, lead strategists and consultants for our notional party of the people did what they always do,” he writes. “They coughed up the heir to an exhausted liberal-managerial brand, to assure a vast nationwide viewing audience that theirs is the American political franchise terminally resistant to new ideas.”

From Investigative Journalism To The Twitter Sandbox, And Other Tales Of The Media’s Demise

I hated working at the copy desk for my college newspaper. While I did line edits and re-flows on one boring student government story after another, I thought about the powerful media people who never had to perform such mundane labor. This was back in 2000, and at least to seventeen-year-old me, opinion was king. Nobody told David Broder what to write; nobody killed a Thomas Friedman story. This, I thought, was where the action was and always would be. You dredged up a few facts  and earned the right to share your opinions.

In the pre-blog era, I deemed reporting, particularly investigative journalism, to be a real snooze, plus lots of work. Investigative journalism was embodied for me by San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb, who wrote the stories about the CIA’s involvement in facilitating the crack cocaine epidemic. His stories eventually became Dark Alliance, a book my father wouldn’t stop talking about. (Webb, of course, was driven out of the business by “serious” reporters who dismissed his work, and he later committed suicide.)

Dad, I thought, was off his rocker. The truth wouldn’t set anyone free. After all, the Bill Clinton impeachment scandal hadn’t produced any smoking guns. Meanwhile, the president’s accusers, like Juanita Broaddrick, were dismissed as fame-seeking spotlight hogs by the commentariat.

Why worry about political corruption and abuse of power when you could turn on the TV and watch a bunch of talking heads chatter about Clinton’s odds of survival? This group consisted of distinguished op-ed contributors who wrote the same boring syndicated column week in and week out; political analysts in the David Gergen mold whose reputations were impervious to their endless string of bad predictions; veteran journalists hoping to burnish their reputation by switching from chasing stories to the grift of opining about them; and talk radio blowhards transitioning their spin cycling to cable news.

Little did I realize that the opinion business was going to change in a big way. Blogging democratized the process of editorializing and “exposure platforms” — like the Huffington Post’s unpaid contributor program, recently ended by the company because it had become an embarrassing cesspool of un-vetted reporting — ensured that all had the chance to shout into the echo chamber. Everyone was entitled to their own opinions and facts, as well as $0 paychecks for sharing them.

A few of the early blog stars rose from the muck of insipid opinion-sharing to become well known analysts, commentators, and op-ed stars. Some even secured treasure chests full of venture capital doubloons, paid out by investors hoping to capture the attention and clicks of the fast-rising millennial cohort who had grown up in this swamp.

Unless you were a hardcore reporter steeped in the history and tradition of the newsroom, it was easy to miss what was happening. Investigative reporting, which provided little bang for the payroll buck and inevitably pissed off the bosses, was ditched for blog-style analysis masquerading as news coverage, which was cheap and easy to mass produce. 

Writing over three decades ago, New Yorker columnist George Trow observed that public discourse was headed in the direction of Family Feud: “The most important moment in the history of television was the moment when [Feud host Richard Dawson] asked contestants to guess what a poll of a hundred people had guessed would be the height of the average American woman. Guess what they’ve guessed the average is.” 

And that is the essence of an analytical piece, not quite opinion and not quite news: what, pray tell, do the voters think about the candidates? “Here are my thoughts about what I think their thoughts are,” writes the wonk. “And I ran a few regressions of a data set selected more or less at random to substantiate this!”

Sure, as a journalist you could still while away the lonely hours hunting down companies evading responsibility for workplace injuries, or chasing dark money pouring into and out of various shady Washington nonprofits and institutions. But that’s hard and tiresome labor, especially if all you really want is a byline.

At the end of the day, muckraking is clearly inferior, career-wise, to pulling on adult diapers and sidling into the office of a legacy publication that pays you $250,000 a year to type up a few vapid columns a week. And better yet, with no consequences if anything you write is patently wrong-headed or brain-dead.

This is the modern news ecosystem.  A few investigative reporters continue to track worthwhile stories and, if they’re lucky, get paid a living wage and defeat some bad guys in the process. But the great majority of today’s journalists are engaged in a brutal battle for likes and shares in the Twitter sandbox, eager to sell their pandering opinions in the hopes of establishing a “brand” and “reach.” Meanwhile, sleazy publishers will continue to get caught doing underhanded things to keep their sinking ships afloat, like buying clickbots to drum up advertising dollars.

And Washington Babylon will be here to follow the media gossip and bullshit all the way to Davey Jones’ locker.

 

 

Democratic Governors Join GOP Lawmakers In Backing Proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline; Project Threatens Native American and Black Communities

Last month, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality issued a permit to allow the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to be constructed through over eight counties and across 300 waterways. The proposed pipeline will transport gas over 600 miles from West Virginia to North Carolina’s southern border. 

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the pipeline last October, when two of five seats were vacant, on a 2 to1 vote. Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina and former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe joined Republican state legislators in supporting the pipeline. 

Native Americans make up one percent of the North Carolina’s population but thirteen percent of the people who live within a mile of the pipeline route are Native Americans — about 30,000 people from the Coharie, Haliwa-Saponi, Lumbee and Meherrin tribes. The pipeline will end in the middle of Lumbee Tribal Territory, where a compressor station and 350 foot communications tower will be built. 

“I continue to speak up in hopes that state and federal regulators will acknowledge the project’s disproportionate impacts on indigenous peoples,” Ryan Emanuel, an Environmental Sciences Professor at North Carolina State University, and a member of the Lumbee Tribe, told me in an interview. “Our cultures are at stake, whether it’s by disturbance of remains and archaeological sites, through climate and land use change, or by erosion of rights to determine what development looks like in our own communities.”

The NAACP is also opposing the project, due to its impact on black communities. “In seven of the eight counties along the proposed route the African American population ranges from 24.3 to 58.4 percent, compared to the 21.3 percent at the state level,” it noted in a November 2017 case study. A compressor station is proposed is Northampton County, on the border of North Carolina and Virginia, where the African-American population is 54.6 percent.

The $5 billion pipeline project is being constructed by Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas, who plan to make it operational by 2019. None of these firms have stellar environmental records. For example, last October the state of Virginia proposed a $260,000 fine against Dominion Energy for two oil spills. In 2015, Duke Energy was charged for illegally dumping millions of gallons of toxic coal ash in North Carolina’s Dan River. 

However, the firms have strong political influence with lawmakers and regulators. The son of Dominion’s CEO, Tom Farrell II, is a member of Virginia’s House of Delegates and sits on a utility regulation commission. The company’s PAC has donated over $200,000 this election cycle to Republicans and Democrats in congress while Duke Energy kicked in over $330,000.

McAuliffe received nearly $100,000 from Dominion Energy’s PAC during his tenure as governor. Cooper raised more than $20,000 from Duke Energy during his Attorney General and Governor campaigns over the past decade. 

The likelihood of oil spills and the disproportionate impact on Native American and African-American communities have incited significant opposition to the project. Fifteen people were arrested last week during a sit-in at Governor Cooper’s office and more protests are being planned. But it will be a difficult challenge to block the pipeline given the vast political power of the energy companies pushing it.

Washington Babylon: We Will Return To Regularly Scheduled Programming Shortly

Well, the Eagles won the Super Bowl, more or less sealing victory when Brandon Graham strip-sacked Tom Brady and Derek Barnett recovered the fumble. With the loss, Tom Brady is now tied with  Fran Tarkenton and John Elway as history’s only three-time Super Bowl loser. Here’s hoping he can tie Jim Kelly with four losses in 2019 and become the sole No. 1 loser of all time in 2020.

So far, though that’s pretty much the only good news Washington Babylon has to report in 2018. We’ve had a series of frustrating website problems to kick off the year, which we’re hoping to resolve shortly. Meanwhile, I’ve been traveling, working on a book proposal, and trying to raise money.

Anyway, I just wanted to apologize for and explain our recent sporadic posting. Bear with us, and we’ll be back on track soon.

Disney Unions: Trump Tax Cut Bonus No Substitute For $15 An Hour Wage

Labor unions are set to restart negotiations with Disney over a new 2019 contract for workers at Disney World in Orlando, Florida on February 12, after months of battling over wage increases. Meanwhile, Disney announced on January 23 that it would be granting $1,000 bonuses to 125,000 workers, citing the Trump tax cut as the reason for the bonuses. ”

“The $1,000 bonus should automatically apply to Disney’s unionized workforce,” said Unite Here Local 737 President Jeremy Haicken in a statement. He said the money should be provided with no strings attached, and should not be a factor in ongoing wage negotiations.

Paying the $1,000 bonus to 125,000 domestic employees will cost Disney $125 million, the statement noted. Disney announced that it will also invest $50 million to create a new higher education program for employees.

The company’s estimated windfall from the Trump tax cuts is over $2 billion annually, leaving it approximately $1,825,000,000 unshared with workers. “The bonuses are one-time payouts, not a permanent solution,” Eric Clinton, President of United Here Local 362, told me in an interview.

Leading up to Christmas, six unions representing 38,000 Disney workers overwhelmingly rejected a company proposal that would have increased its minimum wage by about 50 cents per hour. Ninety-three percent of the union’s dues paying members voted “no.” The company’s current minimum wage is $10 an hour, with unions fighting for $15 an hour.

A worker needs to earn at least $15.87 an hour to afford an average 1-bedroom apartment in Orlando,  according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Despite these economic realities, Disney is insisting on keeping employees on poverty wages.

Disney’s parks regularly make $1 billion in profit per quarter. The company recently acquired 21st Century Fox for $52 billion, a merger that’s estimated to boost Disney’s annual revenue to $25 billion. As the largest single employer in Central Florida, Disney has the power to set local wage standards. When Disney last increased its minimum wage in 2014, to $10 an hour, Universal Studios Resort — whose workers are not unionized — followed suit.

According to Haciken, the 2014 contract leaves the minimum wage at $10 an hour until 2019. At that pace, it wouldn’t reach $15 an hour until 2028.

Disney cast members are bound to strict employee guidelines to preserve the park’s pristine public brand image as “the happiest place on Earth.” Rules include a ban on ever breaking character, learning a specific signature for autographs linked to each specific character, pointing with two fingers instead of one to give directions, and never answering a question with “I don’t know.” Appearance requirements reflect military regulations: no piercings, visible tattoos, no longer hair for men and only neutral nail polish for women.

 Many costumes are hot and uncomfortable in Florida’s heat, yet workers are subjected to long shifts and rigid schedules. Last year, DIsney was forced by the U.S. Department of Labor to pay nearly $4 million in stolen wages for making employees to pay for their own costumes. In 2015, Disney laid off up to 300 IT workers after forcing them –by threatening to revoke severances and bonuses — to train foreign replacements on H-1B Visas.

The company has a long record of paying terrible wages to its workers, who must work second jobs or depend on charity and government assistance to make ends meet. Over the past two decades, Disney has implemented a pay scale that prevents new employees from eventually earning a living wage. “Prior to 1999, a newly hired Cast Member knew that after a few years of hard work, they would rise from starting pay to the top of the pay scale,” Haicken said. “Today, however, up to 18 pay rates exist within each job [category] and new employees have no hope of moving up the pay scale. Disney’s proposal leaves thousands of Cast Members permanently at the bottom of the pay scale.”

Unions organized protests and rallies during negotiations to send a message to Disney that they didn’t intend to roll over for minor concessions. The most recent union vote to reject Disney’s proposal had a historic turnout from members, in a local fight that is emblematic of the broader efforts to battle income inequality in the United States.

 

Mitch McTurtle and the Democrats’ Ongoing Identity Crisis: Party leaders still struggling to turn Trump outrage into Popularity

This past week, the Nevada Democratic Party formally announced a mascot for the 2018 midterm elections: a turtle meant to mock Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with the name “Mitch McTurtle.” Rather than focus on policy or try to win over voters by appealing to issues important to them, Nevada Democratic leaders — who are hoping to defeat GOP Senator Dean Heller, who faces re-election this year — have wasted time and resources on a stupid publicity stunt that was widely mocked.

Slate called it “the worst campaign idea since ‘Pokemon go to the polls.’” The Democratic candidate for Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District, Amy Vilela, tweeted, “This isn’t how we take back Congress. We need bold action & serious party leadership, with focus on the issues that matter to everyday Nevadans. NVDEMS should apologize for this juvenile stunt immediately.” The mascot is emblematic of a Democratic Party that continues to stumble as it tries to find its message, establish an identity, and figure out a way to connect with voters who are outraged by the Trump Administration.

The National Democratic Party made a similarly stupid  marketing judgement earlier this month when it tweeted a photoshopped DVD cover of the film, Mean Girls, to try to make fun of Trump and Republicans.

“Which vendor was in charge of this? If only there was some oversight of this at the @dnc. I’d like to know how much money they made and how long they’ve been pushing this kind of pseudo-clickbait.” DNC Unity Commission member Nomiki Konst tweeted in response to this pathetic attempt at humor. Our Revolution President Nina Turner added, “Take this down please. Mean Girls? Burning each other? WTH? We have real work to do and this ain’t it!”

Bad slogans and jokes — with no serious policy initiatives — have been the Democratic Party’s modus operandi since Trump took office. These range from“Make America Sick Again,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer’s failed rebrand of Trump’s MAGA slogan in January 2017, to congressional Democrats falling flat with their highly touted “Better Deal” campaign last Summer. Then there was the party’s much derided proposed slogan, “Have you seen the other guys?”

In a poll conducted this month by NPR, PBS, and Marist, the Democratic Party’s approval ratings have slipped to just six percentage points above Republicans, an especially poor performance as the GOP holds the presidency and majorities in both houses of congress. The poll also found independent voters were leaning by two percentage points to Republicans.

Riding what is treated as an inevitable blue wave in 2018 is not a promising strategy for the Democratic Party, which needs to at least recapture the House in the midterm elections if it has any hope of blocking Republicans from unchecked power until 2020.

Not every opponent faced by Democrats will be as vulnerable as scandal ridden Roy Moore, whose low standing enabled Doug Jones’ upset victory in Alabama’s special election for U.S. Senate last month. And even Jones’ campaign almost blew his chances by distributing a racist, offensive flyer to potential voters.

The unpopularity of Trump and Republicans has yet to correlate to a grassroots resurgence of the Democratic Party. Its leaders, proposal and strategies are relatively unchanged despite drastic losses during the Obama Administration and Trump’s victory, so it’s not surprising that the same Democrats responsible for such catastrophic losses have failed to translate Trump outrage into renewed popularity.

Of Brooches And War Crimes: The Madeleine Albright Exhibit

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s brooches were recently on display at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum on the University of Texas campus and I’m pleased to provide a brief review. “Madam Secretary,” as we call her in the news game, chose for the exhibit some 200 pieces from her personal collection, and it has been traveling this great nation for the past 9 years, finally coming to a close on January 21.

Although it looks like a giant mausoleum, America’s most lovable war criminal is not actually buried here.

Admittedly, I don’t know a brooch from a pin, but admission was free on MLK Day, so I figured I’d check it out before it left Austin and goes on permanent display at the U.S. Diplomacy Center in Washington, D.C.

“Shortly after becoming a diplomat, Madeleine Albright discovered the power of jewelry to convey a foreign policy message,” the exhibit’s website says. No wonder she was appointed Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service!

“Pins of the People,” she calls them. “Pins of a rich old lady,” I call them.

At first I thought this brooch was one of The Simpsons, but actually it’s “Lady Liberty” with tiny clocks for eyes, one of which is upside-down so the wearer can read it.

According to the prestigious Museum of Arts and Design, Madam’s gaudy brooches do have artistic merit:

The collection that Secretary Albright cultivated is distinctive and democratic-sometimes demure and understated, sometimes outlandish and outspoken-spanning more than a century of jewelry design and including fascinating pieces from across the globe. The works on view were chosen for their symbolic value, and while some are fine antiques, many are costume jewelry.

“Naturally, not every diplomatic encounter deserves a sunny attitude,” Madam explains. “If I wanted to deliver a sharp message, I often wore a bee.”

A bee brooch made of 14k pink gold, silver, enamel, diamonds, and garnets, to be exact, which is the one she wore to her meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Bzzzz.

 

The caption says: “As secretary of state, Albright spent many hours wrangling with the Palestinian leader on the need for compromise in the Middle East.” Translation from Newspeak: The compromises he had been making for years which the U.S. rejected.

Then there was her trip to North Korea, where she had a height contest with Kim Jong Il, father of “Rocket Man” Kim Jong Un, and son of the country’s founding father, Kim Il Sung – aka the “supreme brain of the nation” and “hero of the 20th century.”

In no country are pins more crucial and less decorative than in North Korea. Every North Korean is required to wear an image of the country’s founder … On a negotiating trip to Pyongyang, Albright dramatized her support for democratic values by wearing her American flag pin. Standing next to North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-Il, she wore high heels to appear taller; so did he.

As you can see if you look closely at the snap above, Kim Jong Il succeeded in being taller than Madam. But she took the prize for biggest brooch, with her American flag made of gold-plated base metal, glass beads, and rhinestones.

Elsewhere in the exhibit room, seemingly unrelated to politics, was a display case showcasing Madam’s love of jazz.

As Frank Zappa once said: “Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny.” And Madam has a bunch of pins to help keep it that way.

Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell served as co-chair for the twentieth anniversary celebration of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, which sends musical ambassadors around the world. For the occasion, Albright managed to assemble the instruments for almost an entire jazz band on her shoulder.

The cello is made of sterling silver and amber. Quick, name a jazz cellist!

At the Monk Institute confab, she “spoke about jazz’s influence during Soviet rule in her birthplace, Czechoslovakia, and its relevance for cultural diplomacy today,” the Blouin Artinfo website notes.

While I’m glad Madam is into Monk and the other hepcats of jazz, I only wish she’d given the music a little more hypo when she was a diplomat.

So, what’s my overall review of the brooch exhib?

Well, as mentioned, it was free. And as Madam famously said when asked about her role in the death-by-sanctions of a half million children in Iraq, “the price is worth it.”

With National Politics A Disaster, Look To California! Actually, Don’t Bother

Since 2010, Governor Jerry Brown has given the state of California at least a facade of political leadership that casual national observers might perceive as competent or at least adult.  That Brown has perpetuated a policy of massive tax increases and cynically used climate change and immigration politics to mask  governmental dysfunction and massive, long term state pension and healthcare liabilities is probably only apparent to the local, astute observer.

However, Brown is term limited in 2018 and regardless of how problematic his performance has been, the prospects for his replacement are downright horrifying. A December poll pegged former San Francisco Mayor and Lieutenant-Governor Gavin Newsom at 23 per cent of the vote, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at 18 per cent and other challengers trailing in the single digits. 

That both frontrunners are Democrats is significant. California has instituted a statewide policy of a June primary election that eliminates all but the two top leading vote getters who face each other in a November runoff. That the top two in most elections are Democrats insures that the state will remain a one party oligarchy and in this case that one of these two Democrats will be the next governor.

If nothing else, these two individuals personify the mediocrity that voters in this state are subjected to on a routine basis.  Newsom’s grasping ambition has been evident since his days as a San Francisco City supervisor and entrepreneur bankrolled by members of the socialite Getty clan. 

Elected San Francisco mayor in 2004, Newsom barely defeated a Green party candidate who became the alternative to Newsom’s wealthy, high society connections.  At the time of his election, Newsom was married to attorney and high profile television personality Kimberly Guilfoyle, who he divorced in 2005. 

Newsom: Slick, glib and vacuous.

He immediately embraced gay marriage as a priority, propelling the city to issue same sex marriage licenses.  While the move set off years of referendums and litigation, it certainly ingratiated Newsom with San Franciscans and predictably generated nationwide attention. In 2007 he ran unopposed for re-election.  His vow to eliminate homelessness met with less success, as any recent visitor to his former domain will attest.    

Newsom announced in 2009 that he would run for Governor.  His campaign went nowhere for two basic reasons. One was that Jerry Brown was seeking the same office, but the other was even more fundamental. Since his earliest days, Newsom’s evident slickness and glib, vacuous rhetoric has alienated most statewide voters who found him smarmy and calculating. 

This skepticism seemed completely justified when it was revealed that Newsom had engaged in an affair with his best friend’s wife, especially as said best friend also happened to be his chief of staff, who immediately resigned. Trailing Brown by 20 points, Newsom then officially filed to run for Lieutenant-Governor, a position that has no relevance unless the Governor dies or is incapacitated. 

Serving as a human place-holder for four years did nothing to enhance Newsom’s reputation but with no other viable political options, he successfully ran for re-election in 2014.  Possibly to combat his image as a womanizing cheat, in 2011, Newsom married Jennifer Siebel, a wealthy, well connected member of San Francisco’s social and business elite (surprise!).  Only six years later, and just in time for his gubernatorial campaign, sudden family man Newsom and his wife have four photogenic children. Other than that, Newsom has literally done absolutely nothing for seven years.

A long time ago, Antonio Villaraigosa was considered a rising, Democratic star with major national potential. Elected to the California State Assembly from the hardscrabble East LA neighborhood of Los Angeles, Villaraigosa quickly became influential as the Speaker of the Assembly. 

After an unsuccessful race in 2001, Villaraigosa was eventually elected the first Mexican-American mayor of LA in over a century, in 2005.  Unfortunately, this would be the high water mark of Villaraigosa’s popularity.  His image as a competent, industrious public servant quickly melted under greater public scrutiny and the demands of actually having to administer one of America’s largest and most problematic cities. 

Villaraigosa: An empty suit.

Efforts to reform the school system, address the worst traffic in the nation and fix roads pockmarked with car-swallowing potholes went nowhere.  Revelations that Villaraigosa employed more staff members than the President of the United States and spent only fifteen per cent of his time on actual city business began to perpetuate the perception that he was a PR driven, empty suit merely interested in the pursuit of higher public office. 

Spending small amounts of time on actual city work was his hallmark and the result of frequent Villaraigosa boondoggles around the world and across the country, usually accompanied by dozens of staff members, at public expense.  Trips to locations like Israel, London, Hawaii, New York, Washington, DC and Chicago raised eyebrows, especially when their purpose was officially described as “fund-raising.”  By the end of his second term, Villaraigosa was practically a laughingstock, reduced to attending the Republican National Convention.

Villaraigosa has also had his share of questionable ethical behavior.  His fathering of two illegitimate children in his twenties was largely a secret during his early political career.  His actual surname is Villar, the “Raigosa” emanates from his first wife, an initially charming decision to combine their names when the couple married. 

Unfortunately, Villaraigosa’s proclivity for adultery wrecked the marriage, the final straw occurring in June, 2007 when it was revealed that he was involved in an affair with a local Telemundo reporter that the Mayor was granting exclusive interviews. His wife filed for divorce shortly thereafter.  Villaraigosa remarried in June of 2016.

While it still retains an international reputation as a social and economic powerhouse, California is a state beset with some fundamentally troubling concerns. Factoring in the cost of living, California has the nation’s highest poverty rate at 20.6 per cent and the worst homelessness in the country. 

The official number of undocumented inhabitants is approximately 2.5 million people and is probably far higher, a development that strains already depleted government infrastructure. While the state population is growing, affluent taxpayers are leaving, a development California is addressing with additional gasoline and sales taxes, which are already among the highest in the nation. 

The problem that literally trillions of dollars of pension and medical care liabilities will come due in future decades has never been addressed responsibly by anyone in governmental leadership. The near certainty that the next governor of the state will be either Newsom or Villaraigosa and that the voters and taxpayers will have to choose between these two mediocrities is utterly appalling.  

A Short History Of Louise Mensch

For the latest fake news on Russiagate, the first place I turn to is Louise Mensch, the British Parliament member-turned-conspiracy theorist and one-time New York Times op-ed contributor.

As of November 2017, Mensch had tweeted 110,000 times since she joined Twitter in 2009, averaging 38 a day, according to The Independent’s calculation.

Upon leaving government, Mensch became a columnist for the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sun, where she took up the cause of feminism by getting involved in a series of high-profile “bosom battles,” to use a term coined by the other Howard Rushmore.

She clashed in the media with the Education Secretary’s wife, who saw Mensch’s photo in GQ magazine and concluded that she had “pert, but modest-sized breasts.

Then the venerable British magazine Tatler nicknamed Mensch “Twitter Tits” when it included her in its special “Titler” issue, featuring “the most magnificent and marvellous breasts in all society.”

Mensch was not amused, tweeting, “Please don’t edit magazines drunk. #feminism.” She also used her column to chastise a Parliament member’s wife who had a habit of posting her buxom cleavage selfies on social media.

In response to Mensch’s “#feminism,” Alexandra Jones of The Guardian noted: “This is the very same Louise Mensch who has a column in The Sun. I’m not sure if she’s noticed but The Sun features a different topless woman every day.”

Mensch now lives in the USA with her rock-star-manager hubby, Peter Mensch, and has traded in #feminism for Russiagate.

She reinvented herself as an investigative tweeter, and “began reporting stories using information no other journalist seemed to have,” as The Independent observed.

Mensch specializes in “informed speculation” and other forms of hard evidence that are intended to prove that Vladimir Putin snatched the 2016 election from Hillary Clinton’s rightful grasp.

Convinced that Putin’s alleged theft was an act of war, Mensch tweet-demanded that then-President Obama go to war with Russia. “I want precision bombing raids. Mass cyber war. Bank hacks.”

For unknown reasons, Obama didn’t listen.

In April 2017, she claimed on Twitter that Black Lives Matter activists were paid by Russia to demonstrate in Ferguson. “That’s because you, Russia, funded riots in Ferguson,” she tweeted.

And while most conspiracy theorists think Andrew Breitbart’s sudden death in 2012 was orchestrated by Barack Hussein Obama, you know who Mensch thinks did it. “I absolutely believe that Andrew Breitbart was murdered by Putin, just as the founder of RT was murdered by Putin.”

She even tried to explain the law to Preet Bharara, former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, when he derided her reporting that there were sealed indictments against Trump.

Truly, Mensch is “the Sy Hersh of our time,” as former New York Times writer Virginia Heffernan called her.

She also has a blog called Patribotics, which I think is the same thing as probiotics, so you can get your Russiagate facts and increase your gut flora at the same time.

Last November, she broke the story on “Mike Flynn’s Treason Tour,” describing how “Flynn and his son assisted Vladimir Putin in targeting Russian propaganda not only in the United States, but also right across Europe.”

She later absolved Mike Flynn Jr. for going on the treason tour, because he told her that he was forced to do it, and said so “in such a way” that led her to believe him. She did, however, accuse the younger Flynn of being “addicted to tweeting hate-ridden Russian messaging.”

Mensch’s former employer The Sun was not known for its accuracy  Alas, Mensch has gotten a number of stories rather spectacularly wrong, including a report that Trump had secretly been replaced as president.

“Trump’s Presidency Ended May 9th – Hatch Getting Security Briefings,” Patribotics exclusively reported last May. “Several sources familiar with the matter say that Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah is being given security briefings to prepare him for the Presidency,” the story said. “Sources close to the legal community indicate that matters are proceeding rapidly in the forthcoming proceedings to remove Donald Trump from office, and to indict the co-conspirators around him.”

Mensch kicked off 2018 with a New Year’s Day blog post, revealing that the Russians hacked The New York Times because it is the “paper of record” and because it is read by liberals. Perhaps Putin had read The Times’ advertising data card, and logically concluded from the demographic profile that it would be a good hack.

Patribotics sometimes has guest bloggers, most notably Claude Taylor, who is best-known for breaking the news about Donald and Melania Trump’s aborted divorce plans. In May 2017, Taylor tweeted: “I was just told by MSM member that Donald and Melania’s divorce papers were signed prior to election and settlement agreed to. Then he won.”

Another guest blogger, Peter Evans, dropped a Patribotic bombshell last November when he revealed that China was Putin’s “partner in crime” when he stole the 2016 election.

Evans wrote: “Fact is that the biggest geopolitical heist in history occurred when Donald J Trump was elected as President. Because he was elected not by the people, for the people, but by and for the interests of the Russian Federation – and the People’s Republic of China.”

Russia is uniquely devious, Evans pointed out, because it “does things strategically” – unlike other governments, which just wing it.

A particularly sinister example of Russian strategy is the “international intrigue we are seeing now over with North Korea,” which “is nothing but a Kabuki Dance designed to confuse and distract the Western public from what is really going on.” (Note to Evans: Kabuki is not Korean.)

Meanwhile, on Twitter Mensch has recently claimed that a certain Vermont senator is also in on the Russian plot to undermine America. “Bernie Sanders’ links to Putin discredited Bernie Sanders,” she tweeted.

For a long time Mensch’s loopy conspiracy theories were quite popular with liberals. who were — and still are — desperate to believe anything that furthers the Russiagate/impeachment narrative. But by now, her fan base, and credibility, has diminished significantly. “Louise Mensch’s Destructive Fantasies,” the conservative but generally anti-Trump National Review headlined one story. “Louise Mensch and the rise of the liberal conspiracy theorist,” Slate ran above another piece.

Well, no she can’t. Instead, she responded by outing Mr. Mensch as a “fucking commie,” according to The London Times.

 

Did Moby Spread Anti-Trump Message For CIA? If He Did, Agency Probably Broke The Law

During a radio interview last week, Moby stated that “active and former CIA agents” who were “truly concerned” about Trump’s “collusion” with Russia had asked him to express alarm about that on social media, as reported here by Pitchfork.  “They were like, ‘This is the Manchurian Candidate, like [Putin] has a Russian agent as the President of the United States,’” he was quoted as saying. “So they passed on some information to me and they said, like, ‘Look, you have more of a social media following than any of us do, can you please post some of these things just in a way that … sort of put it out there.’”

This is consistent with what Moby said last February in an Instagram post, when he claimed “friends in DC”  had told him the famous Trump dossier was “100% real” and that Putin’s government was “blackmailing” the president. “He’s being blackmailed by the russian government, not just for being peed on by russian hookers, but for much more nefarious things,” he wrote. “the trump administration is in collusion with the russian government, and has been since day one.”

The story has been treated as an innocuous form of entertainment, like much political coverage these days, but if Moby really spread such information — true or not — at the behest of CIA officials, the officials may have broken the law. Under its rules, the agency is forbidden from seeking to get journalists or journalism outlets to spread information inside the continental United States that’s intended to influence public opinion.

OK, the agency has obviously repeatedly broken its charter over the years, including when it comes to working with journalists and seeking to influence domestic opinion.  But if Moby is telling the truth, it raises a few obvious questions that someone should be asking the CIA:

1/ Who were the officers who passed this information to Moby?

2/ Did they do so at the request of acting CIA officials as part of a planned effort to influence public opinion, or did they merely share the information in casual conversation over drinks? (Either way, it doesn’t seem proper for CIA officers, especially active ones, to be using celebrities to spread partisan political information.)

3/ Has the CIA filed a crimes report with the FBI and Justice Department to get answers to the questions above?

Given how many leaks to journalists we’ve seen from the intelligence community, this may seem like a small matter, but if it’s true imagine the consequences and possibilities. Do we really want the CIA passing information to Ted Nugent about Barack Obama and having him spread it on his demented Twitter feed and Fox News?

 

Could Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Leader of Corporate Democrats, Go Down in 2018?

Florida Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz is facing a challenge in her 2018 Democratic Primary from Tim Canova, a Law Professor at Nova Southeastern University. Though Wasserman Schultz no longer serves as Chair of the Democratic National Committee, she is still treated as a spokesperson for House Democrats and regularly makes media appearances in this capacity, and retains authority over Florida Democratic Party dealings.

Wasserman Schultz, who has served in congress since 2004, is one of the top Democrats in Florida, where Republicans hold the Governorship, majorities in the state house and senate, 16 out of 27 congressional seats, and one U.S. Senate seat. Over the past decade, Florida has transitioned from a swing state to one where Republicans rule, and Florida and several of its major cities repeatedly lead the country in income and wealth inequality.

The Democratic Party’s political irrelevance in Florida is in large part a product of establishment Democrats like Wasserman Schultz, who have directed the party’s strategy and resources at their own discretion. It’s all highly reminiscent of the way Wasserman Schultz drove the DNC into the ground during her tenure, as described by Donna Brazile in her 2017 book, Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House.

Wasserman Schultz’s power within the party lies in sharp contrast to her loyalty to it. Back in 2008, McClatchy reported, “Democratic party leaders have tapped Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to raise money and coach candidates in a high-stakes, aggressive bid to expand the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. But as three Miami Democrats look to unseat three of her South Florida Republican colleagues, Wasserman Schultz is staying on the sidelines.”

In 2016,  Dr. Alina Valdes, the Democratic challenger to GOP Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, accused Wasserman Schultz of opposing her effort to unseat the Republican. She charged that  Wasserman Schultz blacklisted her from receiving support from local unions in order to help her Republican friend.

Since Wasserman Schultz left the DNC, she’s continued to spur controversy while helping her establishment allies assert control over the Florida Democratic Party. One of her most generous donors, Stephen Bittel, was elected Florida Democratic Party Chair in January 2017 with her help.  He resigned less than a year later when reports surfaced that he had “created an unprofessional workplace environment for women, noting that he made persistent inappropriate comments, leered at young women and even invited them on his private jet.”

Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton all campaigned for Wasserman Schultz in 2016 to fend off a primary challenger in a district that leans heavily Democratic. The party establishment was, of course, well aware that keeping her in congress would help preserve corporate Democrats’ hold over the party. Meanwhile, Wasserman Schultz inexplicably continued to employ an IT aide, Imran Awan, who was under investigation by U.S. Capitol Police and the FBI. (That investigation is ongoing.  Awan is scheduled to appear in federal court in March 2018; his attorneys are still battling with federal investigators over granting access to a laptop belonging to Wasserman Schultz’s office that Awan had hid in a separate congressional building.)

On December 15, Politico reported that several legal experts deemed the destruction of ballots from Wasserman Schultz’s 2016 primary race  to be illegal. The Florida governor and secretary of state are investigating why the ballots were destroyed and Wasserman Schultz’s primary challenger, Tim Canova, is pushing for a congressional and federal inquiry.

“Debbie Wasserman Schultz remains the epitome of all that’s wrong in the Democratic Party and in our country’s politics,” Canova, who is challenging her again next year, told the Real News Network. “Wasserman Schultz has taken millions of dollars in donations and support from predatory corporate interests, and she carries their water on Capitol Hill and in Florida.”

For progressives in Florida, Wasserman Schultz remains a significant obstacle to any reform of the state Democratic Party. She’s also a major impediment to any hopes Democrats have of turning the tide nationally and ensuring Trump doesn’t win the state again in 2020.

Trump Hits “Stormy” Weather

In the latest twist yet of a bizarre presidency still less than one year old, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, allegedly paid $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels in October 2016 to keep her from discussing a decade-old sexual affair. “Ms. Clifford has appeared in about 150 adult films, and was considered among the industry’s biggest stars when the then-27-year-old met Mr. Trump at the American Century Championship in 2006, held at Edgewood Tahoe golf course in Nevada,” the Journal reported.

The story of Trumpy and Stormy, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has so many sidebars it’s hard to say which is funniest. First, there’s Cohen, who just last year called himself Trump’s “fix-it guy.” He has denied claims by former Brit spy Christopher Steele, contained in the now infamous BuzzFeed dossier, that his boss engaged in golden showers with Russian prostitutes and says the website’s “muckraking statements”  have harmed his reputation.

Obviously, Cohen’s “family man” claims are now limp, as Cohen has clearly shot his wad with Stormy Payday, if the Journal‘s story is accurate. It should be noted that Ms. Clifford has denied the Journal‘s story and said if she had had an affair with Trump, she’d have written a book by now.

Next up is Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee and anybody else who actually or allegedly paid Steely Dan from MI-6 for his Golden Showers dossier. Obviously, they could have saved time and money by shopping at home and cutting a bigger check to Steph than Cohen reportedly did.

And, that’s not all. DDaniels is from Louisiana, home of Republican paragon of virtue David Vitter. Surely, the WSJ, or BuzzFeed, or somebody, should be inquiring by now about Golden Triangles given that Stormy pondered a run against Vitter for the U.S. Senate in 2010.  “When Daniels was contemplating her candidacy, she was arrested for domestic violence in Florida, and her campaign aide’s vehicle was fire-bombed outside of his apartment in New Orleans,” according to this story.  “’It’s something out of The Sopranos,’ University of New Orleans professor Ed Chervenak said at the time.”

Resist Oprah: If Her History On Education Is Any Guide, She’s Bad News

Credit: WikiCommons.

At the Golden Globes this week Oprah Winfrey gave a passionate, moving speech and now speculation is rampant that it was in reality a stump speech. Outlets like The Hill and Politico, to name just two, agreed:  It sure sounds like Oprah will throw her hat in the ring and run, most likely as a Democrat, for president.

Whatever one’s feelings are about her beloved show, and as a long-time viewer mine are mixed, a look into public remarks and activities are problematic, to say the least. Like the reality show host we have in the White House now, Winfrey has never held office so we don’t have voting records to help determine if she’d make a good president.

One major area of concern about her, among many, is her obsession with what she and other advocates for privatizing public schools call “education reform.” In a September 2010 episode, she featured the backers of a film by director David Guggenheim, “Waiting For Superman,” which featured Bill Gates, a major funder of the education “reform” movement. “’Today you’re going to learn things that you had no idea were going on in this country in our schools,’ were Oprah’s ominous opening words, and so was the beginning of what turned out to be a two-hour infomercial for the Obama administration’s education reform agenda,” said this piece in Colorlines.

Meanwhile, Winfrey has donated millions to charter school groups through one of her foundations. The Walton family, of Wal-Mart fame, is another big donor to the movement for charter schools — over $1 billion to expand “school choice” it its case — which is a major priority of Republicans and centrist Democrats.

Hey, remember, we’re supposed to be “resisting” Betsy DeVos.

Winfrey produced a six-part series on her own network called, “Blackboard Wars,” which purports to show the “rescue” of John McDonough High, a charter in New Orleans.  As Diane Ravitch, a professor at NYU and critic of charters, has written, just a year after the series ran,  John McDonough was  dissolved and staff members were canned.

See this Washington Post review of “Blackboard Wars” to get an idea of its honesty. “It is appalling to witness grown-ups exploit some of our nation’s most vulnerable young people for ratings and national school reform cred,” the review said.  “John Mac supporters in New Orleans recently sent an open letter protesting the series’ caustic and stereotypical portrayals. The noted New Orleans educator, Loyola University’s Andre Perry questioned the show’s impact on the psyche of students and suggested a scholarship might be a better use of Oprah’s resources.”

And if you’re still not sure about “education reformers,” check out Natalie Hopkinson’s 2010 story in The Atlantic, “Why Michelle Rhee’s Education ‘Brand’ Failed in D.C.; A corporate approach to schools clashes with D.C.’s black middle class.”

So now, as we wait to see if Oprah does indeed roll the dice — and let’s face it, she could easily fund her own campaign — we have to face the truth of her past. Bill Kristol tweeting “Oprah, #ImWithHer,” immediately sets off the alarm bells. When it comes to education, let’s not go back to the days of Obama when even liberal Democrats barely challenged his policies that undermined public education or his allegiance to the charter school industry.

Resist Oprah.

Billionaire Tom Steyer And The False Promise Of The Trump Resistance

Hedge-fund billionaire Tom Steyer has launched himself into the Trump Resistance, pouring millions of dollars into advertisements and a website urging the impeachment of Donald Trump. He’s spent over $20 million so far on a nationwide ad campaign, starring himself, as the DNC and several grassroots organizations struggle to compete in fundraising against billionaires backing Trump and the GOP.

Dozens of mainstream media outlets have rewarded Steyer with positive news coverage and ample airtime to promote his ‘Impeach Trump’ campaign. Meanwhile, he’s building an extensive email list and fundraising database as he ramps up a potential political career (though he claims he isn’t planning to run for office).  “For just $20 million, Steyer has collected nearly four million email addresses, simply by promising that the act of giving him your email address will, in some fashion, help make the impeachment of Donald Trump more likely, which is not true,”Splinter News reported.

So who is Steyer? According to this CNBC story, he is currently worth $1.6 billion, “graduated from Yale with his a bachelor’s degree in 1979 and Stanford School of Business in 1983, according to his LinkedIn page. He launched the asset management firm, Farallon Capital Management, in 1986 and grew the company for the following 26 years.” The story was titled, “Meet the billionaire businessman obsessed with impeaching Trump.”

There is no sign or evidence that impeaching Trump is viable and political figures and fundraisers should not be promising it to voters. The case that impeaching Trump is a panacea for the nation’s  problems is a Resistance fantasy that distracts from concrete policy issues and ignores that Vice President Mike Pence would likely be more effective in pushing and enacting far-right policies.

Steyer is portraying himself as a savior to get rid of Trump. It’s speculative as to whether he has ulterior motives for his campaign, or sincerely believes it will work, but he certainly has too much money and spending wads of  it to promote impeachment does little to nothing in real terms when it comes to building a real opposition to Trump or helping Democrats come up with a popular political program.

On January 8, Steyer held a press conference to formally announce his  ambitions, just days after a publicity stunt for which he purchased and delivered copies of Michael Wolff’s book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” to every member of Congress.  Steyer said during the press conference that he plans to pour more money into his ‘Impeach Trump’ campaign, and use his Super PAC, Next Generation Climate, to flip the House Democratic this year, though he provided no specifics on how he plans to do that.

Steyer may be one of the more shameless self-promoters of the Trump Resistance, but he isn’t the only figure to use the Resistance for personal gain. Democratic fundraiser Scott Dworkin, who leads a PAC called the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, has come under criticism recently as FEC filings show nearly a third of the money raised by the PAC has been funneled to his own consulting firm, the Bulldog Finance Group. The PAC brands itself as “the nation’s largest grassroots resistance organization,” but hasn’t produced anything of note that actually contributed to that resistance, nor has it spent much money on activists, individuals or candidates who have.

When pressed to answer questions about what the Democratic Coalition PAC actually does, Dworkin portrayed his critics as Russian propaganda stooges and pitch his followers on social media to retweet his content. Dworkin and several others have monetized their large followings by claiming they have insider information that’s going to blow open the Russia investigation.

They’ve build a lucrative business model by selling false promises to followers while MSNBC’s Joy Reid and other mainstream media outlets signal-boost their platforms, legitimizing them as credible experts. At the same time, activists, grassroots organizations and more policy-focused forms of opposition to Trump and the GOP are eclipsed by the self-adulation and sensationalism of this retweet-addicted grifter crowd.

A Suburban Mom Has Enough of the #Resistance

Resistance headquarters!

As 2018 kicks off, the two sides of the Democratic Party are hurling endless insults at each other. I’ve made it no freakin’ secret that I am part of what could be called the Sanders’ wing or really, the progressive faction of the party. On the other side there’s the Hillary Clinton wing, or as I like to call it, “There’s nothing wrong with the Democratic Party,” faction.

Now, if anyone has read my work, you’ll know that I’m held hostage in an insufferable suburb of New York City. I recently had a run-in with some people at a Panera Bread –don’t judge me, it’s all I have here in this chain store hellscape — when I was waiting for my order and found myself in a conversation with two other women.

Eventually, we sat down at a table chosen by corporate of Panera Bread. Now, I don’t know these women personally, but I know the type. I’m sure they’re lovely in ANY other context aside from politics. As we were chatting, the topic of the recent Democratic Party Unity Commission came up in conversation. I’ll admit that I just assumed that these moms with their haircuts that make them look 15 years older than they are; sweaters that couldn’t be more unflattering, and you can only imagine the jeans. Hate me if you want but JEANS MATTER you had a kid you didn’t take a vow of freaking celibacy, these figure destroying clumps of denim these women wear are fucking horrendous. So, I was SHOCKED they knew ANYTHING about the DNC Unity Reform Commission. I would have assumed these were the types who trade photos of their pets dressed up for the holidays and brag about their “perfect” kids on Facebook.

We ended up talking for over an hour. What was glaring was their hatred for the reforms that the Sanders’ wing of the commission was fighting for. Like, open primaries and same day registration. Reduction of superdelegates. Use and misuse of Caucuses, I was almost impressed, New Jersey isn’t even a caucus state, but they obviously had been well armed with talking points they read from Hillary Clinton stenographers like Joy Reid and that idiot, ‘Armando’ from DAILY KOS. Armando like his higher paid network friends like Joy specializes in distorting reality, claiming the Sanders’ surrogates were trying to engage in ‘voter suppression’ for instituting fair rules about registering for primaries in states like New York. It was more than clear that the information they were receiving and absorbing was coming from Clinton apologists.

I tried to explain the situation. I went over that in the end, the Hillary and the Sanders’ appointees actually DID vote almost unanimously on the measures. A gentle reminder to the folks in the dull center: the Unity Reform Commission’s job was to ultimately make recommendations that have to eventuality go to a vote of the DNC voting body. Think any reason or logic mattered to this low-info, “everything’s great!” suburban women sitting before me?

Answer: NO. Hell no. Not even a little bit.

In their blind devotion to ALL THINGS HILLARY, which AGAIN, Hillary’s appointees also voted on these same measures (obviously after months of debate, that’s for another article), they still couldn’t get over the stupidity they read. From hellscape sites like DAILY KOS to of fucking course, watching and LOVING Joy Reid.

Now I actually learned something interesting. I just assumed that not everyone or a much smaller fraction of folks were on Twitter. And if anyone is on that platform, that’s where Clinton apologists & hacks like Peter Daou and Tom Watson, the two founders of the too dumb to parody Hillary Men. By the way, we know who Peter Daou is, he’s the failed social media guru who hasn’t worked on a successful campaign in his life. But the real question is who the HELL is Tom Watson, by the way, and why the FUCK is anyone listening to him? In addition to these laughable “Hillary Men” the court of mean girl Hillary Defense League members Neera Tanden, Joy Reid, Sady Doyle, and well the list of left-punchers just goes on and on. What startled me is that they knew about these Hillary-enabler’s Twitter rants – as tweets from Twitter get passed around on the most nauseating website: Facebook. That’s when it all made sense to me.

Again, I can’t stress enough that these #TheResistance warriors only had information from the most rabid Clinton supporters and websites like fucking SHAREBLUE. You know, that ‘unbiased media outlet’ that is a venture of David goddamn Brock and YES Peter God Damned Daou. The “knowledge” they were dropping was oh, so familiar. It’s the exact same language one only has to read when they go on the aforementioned timelines on Twitter. Just distorting the goals and aims of the Sanders’’ appointees positions and intentions on the Unity Reform Commission.

When I asked (not even enjoying that fucking fabulous green iced tea!) if the party was “fine” why is it we don’t control two-thirds of the country? Are they concerned about the roughly 1100 legislative seats lost? Do they WANT to at a minimum, flip the House of Representatives? #TheResistance remains and always will be a total fucking joke engineered in a K Street comm shop designed to keep Wine Moms stupid and angry. What the actual hell are they “resisting”? I’ve said this a million times and I’ll say it again: its imperative one learns about what fuck happened to the Democratic Party. From the move away from labor in the 1970s to the formation of the Democratic Leadership Council and a faction of “third-way” Democrats voting along GOP lines economically. One article I reference is the great monopolies and antitrust expert, Matt Stoller’s piece in the Atlantic. I give this out as a primer: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/10/how-democrats-killed-their-populist-soul/504710/).

The answer I got was a lot about gerrymandering (which obviously there IS truth to this reality), and of course RUSSIA, but in the end, not much else. All they knew is in their minds, we Bernie Bros lost the presidency for the appointed heir of Democracy, Hillary Clinton. I explained as I always do, that I and everyone I know voted for her in the general; was met with eye-rolls. And what did that have to do with the particulars of the Unity Reform Commission? I mean, wasn’t that what we were talking about?

I then realized that these women really didn’t care about reforming the Democratic Party. To them, this was all about defending Hillary Clinton. It was there I knew I was sitting before, right there in that Panera Bread, future founding members of PUMAs 2.0. In other words, if Sanders gets the Democratic nomination in 2020, you CAN BET, there will be an entire group of “Party Unity My Ass” ALL OVER AGAIN.

And with that, I thanked them for chatting and grabbed my Marc Jacobs bag…and YES, I’m hypocritical AS FUCK, but at least I’m aware and aiming to be #woke, I excused myself and ran to my mom SUV. The official vehicle for the #woke suburban moms! Laughing all the way home.

I felt a sense that these pundits, news personalities, media outlets, blogs like KOS, etc, that Clinton had in her pocket remember she’s been running for President for 20 years have done such a thorough job at smearing, distorting the progressive left of the party, these women were just voicing what they’ve been reading and discussing at their equally vapid Indivisible meetings.

So, as the recommendations of The Unity Reform Commission didn’t go as far as some of us on the progressive side would’ve wanted them to go, there’s NO QUESTION that progress was made. 60% reduction in superdelegates. As a Sanders’ appointee and board member of the progressive group, Our Revolution, Dr. James Zogby stated in an email:

“Reducing the number of unpledged “superdelegates” in the presidential nominating process by 60 percent.

Electoral reforms and a process for rewarding states that have same-day registration, same-day party change, open primaries, and other measures that increase civic participation.

Commitment to reevaluating allocation formulas so primary and caucus winners receive more pledged delegates.

Commitment to reexamine the primary calendar, and offer incentives to states to ensure the calendar is appropriately spread out so voters in each state receive the necessary exposure to the candidates.

Steps toward financial transparency and oversight, the creation of an Ombudsman Committee, and strengthening the conflict of interest provision.

So, YES, progress has been made and we should celebrate this uphill climb. But as Our Revolution president and Sanders’ appointee on the Commission, Nina Turner stated in an interview the morning after the commission’s final meeting on the Bill Press Show, “ “It is progress, but that doesn’t mean grassroots folks can’t still push the rules & by-laws committee who are *not* bound by the resolution”

Note: there are still 280 superdelegates that aren’t bound.

So in sum, my question is, there’s this pesky thing called MATH. At some point, we are going to have to come together and instead of screaming from the rooftops, “get the fuck out of the party!”, (I admit, I’m guilty of this too, in moments of pettiness, I have told these Hillaynuts to go form their own centrist party, but I didn’t really mean it), we actually need THE NUMBERS to overcome the insane right-wing agenda. That’s just a goddamn reality.

One thing for sure, we must never stop fighting for a bold, progressive agenda. And if these Clinton loyalists don’t like it, I say: GET USED TO IT. The left is taking the HELL over. I say this as I’m sipping delicious iced green tea from Panera Bread.

The Bunker: Command Center Of JFK Assassination Or Merely The World’s Most Interesting Basement?

During the 1968-69 school year, I attended preschool at the Dallas Health and Science Museum in Fair Park.

I didn’t know it at the time, but there was an underground bunker beneath the playground outside our classroom. Known as the Dallas Civil Defense Emergency Operations Center (EOC), it became operational in 1962 to serve as a command post for city officials in case of nuclear war.

Unlike an ordinary fallout shelter, it was intended to shelter only government officials, not the general public.

Some conspiracy theorists believe the bunker could have played a role in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

But first, some relevant background.

THE MUSEUM

The museum was founded in 1946 as the Dallas Health Museum by a group called the Dallas Academy of Medicine, which was “made up of doctors, dentists, and lay people” who aimed to create a “common channel of enthusiastic effort for all the forces of health in Dallas and the Southwest.” The goal of the museum was “to provide health education for the public in order to protect health and cure disease,” and no admission fees were charged.

Executive Director Horace Dodson “Dixie” Carmichael presided over numerous renovations, expansions and innovations at the museum from 1956 to 1979. Carmichael was formerly with the Red Cross, where he served as a field director during World War II,  and then as a Texas state relations officer.

The museum’s preschool was launched in 1957 as the only such science-based program in the nation.

My teacher, Annie Riley.

The word “Science” was added to the museum’s name in 1958, possibly inspired by the National Defense Education Act of the same year, which was part of a general increase in science funding in response to the launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union. A domed planetarium was added to the museum at that time. Sitting in there and staring up at the “stars” is my most vivid preschool memory.

In 1981, the museum was rebranded as The Science Place, and in 2012 it left Fair Park for a new downtown location (a few blocks from Dealy Plaza), becoming the Perot Museum of Nature and History — the result of a $50 million gift from the Ross Perot family.

THE BUNKER

1961 artist’s rendering of proposed bunker (Dallas Times Herald).
2001 photo with playground equipment visible behind the shrubs, with giant State Fair ferris wheel in background. (Photo: Eric Green)

The bunker was a project of the Dallas City-County Civil Defense and Disaster Commission. Officials of the organization are seen in the picture below examining a model of the structure.

Commission Chairman John W. Mayo summarized the purpose of the bunker in a statement at the dedication ceremony:

This Emergency Operating Center is part of the National Plan to link Federal, State and local government agencies in a communications network from which rescue operations can be directed in time of local or National emergency. It is a vital part of the National, State and local Operational Survival Plan.

May our Country be spared the trial of ever having to use this structure for its ultimate purpose.

In addition to running a mortgage company (as indicated on the letterhead above), Mayo was also a local American Legion post commander — an ardent anti-Communist by definition, as indicated in the following passage from an exhibit catalog for the Dallas Museum of Art:

In March of 1955, Col. John W. Mayo, commander of the Dallas Metropolitan Post No. 581 of the American Legion, sent a communication to the Trustees of the Art Museum decrying many of the Museum’s policies and saying that the Post objected ‘to the Museum patronizing and supporting artists … whose political beliefs are dedicated to destroying our way of life.

The other name on the letterhead is Boise B. Smith, who is listed as Director of the organization. He had been an active member of the Dallas police since the 1930s. Shown below posing with one of the four-ton steel bunker doors.

Civil Defense historian Eric Green provides details of the bunker on his Civil Defense Museum website:

The old Dallas Civil Defense Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is located under the playground in front of the Science Place Planetarium Building at Fair Park in Dallas Tx. This EOC was to function as a relocation shelter for Dallas govt. officials in the event of a nuclear attack. It was from this shelter that officials would have tried to coordinate recovery efforts involving community shelters, radiological monitors, police, fire, sanitation and other services.

Construction of the EOC lasted from 1960 to 1961 at a cost of $120,000. The City of Dallas paid $60,000 and the Federal govt. paid the additional $60,000. This shelter is a blast shelter in the true sense of the term. It is equipped with large concrete and steel blast doors which bolt shut when closed for sealing purposes. The exterior blast door is plainly visible next to the sidewalk on the southeast side of the building.

 

The EOC also is equipped with air ventilators containing “anti-blast valves” which would close to prevent blast pressure from entering the shelter. The air circulation system was built with a separate air filtration room complete with a wall of air filters to remove fallout contaminants from the incoming air.

 

According to a March 27, 1962 Dallas Times Herald article the shelter was officially opened on April 1st, 1962 at 3pm.

 

Marilyn W. Waters was on the museum staff for 45 years, from 1961 until her retirement in 2006. In 2014 and again this year, I interviewed her via email about the bunker.

It was well underway when I came and was just being completed. The Executive Director [H.D. Carmichael] had a background with emergency preparedness when he worked for an arm of the Red Cross. He was always interested in civil defense issues and was on some important committee dealing with Emergency Preparedness.

 

There was a citizen activist group connected with the then newly formed Dallas City-County Civil Defense and Disaster Commission and to the best of my recall, our Exec. Director was part of the group especially with his Red Cross Disaster Relief background.

“Civil Defense, the fire department, and the police department all at one time had emergency stations down there,” she added, and the museum was permitted “to use the large meeting/planning room whenever the Civil Defense people were not having training.”

An exception was during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when “armed guards were placed at the entrance so that only authorized persons could enter.

As for the construction of the bunker, Waters said: “It leaked like crazy — radioactivity would have seeped in the leaks! The sump pumps to force sewage up to the ground level didn’t work well so sewage backup would have been a problem.” She reckons that it “would have been vaporized with any strike near downtown.”
 
By the late 1970s, Civil Defense, the fire department, and the police department had each gradually abandoned the bunker. “When they pulled out, they left odds and ends of early 1960’s radio equipment and other items,” Waters explained. “All working engines, foodstuffs, etc. were removed and we were left with an interesting basement — except when the hydraulics malfunctioned on the 4-ton lead-lined doors that sealed off the stairs down into the shelter! We used the shelter for a classroom, storage and other things over the years.”

Was Col. Charles W. McCoy at the controls when JFK got shot?

 

(Photo: Eric Green)

When researcher Eric Green toured the bunker in 2001, the radios shown in the 1965 newspaper clipping above were still there, as he writes on his website:

I couldn’t believe the radios were still there when I took the tour the first time. They were still there the second time I went back in 2003 but had been removed in 2013. The large box on the desktop used to be on the floor. It has been badly rusted and damaged by water. The radio power and antenna cables run up to boxes and conduits on the ceiling above each cubicle. These radio antenna conduits run through the womens restroom and out of the back wall of the shelter. I don’t know where they go from there.

THE CLASSICAL MUSIC CONNECTION

On the Civil Defense and Disaster Commission letterhead shown above, the office address of Boise B. Smith is identified as being the WRR Transmitter Building in Fair Park.

WRR, the museum, and the bunker have many things in common.

An online exhibit by the Dallas City Hall provides the following historical summary of WRR, the station-of-choice for Dallas-Fort Worth highbrows since 1964, when it switched to an all classical format:

WRR is the municipally-owned radio station operated by the City of Dallas. It not only pioneered the local airwaves; WRR was the first licensed broadcast station in Texas and the South and the second broadcast station issued a commercial license in the United States …

 

Until the departments had their own internal support, WRR supplied and maintained all radio equipment for Police, Fire, Park and Recreation, Water, Public Works, and the former Health Department. At its peak it furnished dispatching services for Dallas County, Cockrell Hill Police Department, and private ambulance services (in the days before 911). WRR discontinued these adjunct services in 1969.

At Fair Park, with the Cotton Bowl in the background.

In 1973, an addition to the Dallas Health and Science Museum was built as the new home of WRR. Marilyn Waters recounted that development:

Their first location in Fair Park was in a building just off the main street of the State Fair grounds. Over time they had amassed considerable funds and wanted to build in Fair Park. The Dallas Health Museum wanted to expand. Architects came up with a plan that would give the museum more space and provide additional space for WRR, especially to house their growing operations. Eventually a second floor was completed converting the small office area upstairs into a full second floor complete with classrooms.

WRR addition on the left side of the Museum.

THE BUNKER AND JFK

Among assassination buffs, suspicion of the bunker hinges on the fact that Jack Crichton, a key figure in some JFK conspiracy theories, was involved with the Dallas Civil Defense and Disaster Commission. An oilman with connections to the Bush family, Crichton was the failed Republican nominee in the 1964 Texas gubernatorial race.

In his book, Family of Secrets, veteran reporter Russ Baker notes:

In April 1, 1962, Dallas Civil Defense, with Crichton heading its intelligence component, opened an elaborate underground command post under the patio of the Dallas Health and Science Museum. Because it was intended for “continuity-of-government” operations during an attack, it was fully equipped with communications equipment.

With this shelter in operation on November 22, 1963, it was possible for someone based there to communicate with police and other emergency services. There is no indication that the Warren Commission or any other investigative body or even JFK assassination researchers looked into this facility or the police and Army Intelligence figures associated with it.

Peter Dale Scott, the JFK assassination researcher who coined the term “deep state” to describe those in the federal executive bureaucracy who allegedly wield inordinate power behind the scenes, attributes a prominent role to Crichton:

Since World War Two, secrecy has been used to accumulate new covert bureaucratic powers under the guise of emergency planning for disasters, planning known inside and outside the government as the ‘Doomsday Project.’ Known more recently as ‘Continuity of Government’ (COG) planning” it was “originally concerned with decapitation of the US government after a nuclear attack…. All this Doomsday planning can be traced back to 1963, when Jack Crichton, head of the 488th Army Intelligence Reserve unit of Dallas, was also part of it. This was in his capacity as chief of intelligence for Dallas Civil Defense, which worked out of an underground Emergency Operating Center.

Scott adds: “Six linear inches of Civil Defense Administrative Files are preserved in the Dallas Municipal Archives. I hope an interested researcher may wish to consult them.”

In the meantime, we can consult Marilyn Waters, who was working at the museum, above the bunker, on the day JFK was assassinated.

My boss at the time, H. D. Carmichael, had one of the limited invitations to attend the luncheon where Kennedy was to speak.  He was very excited about the opportunity. Once he left the building to drive to the Trade Mart, I hopped in my car to go over a couple of blocks to get a plate lunch. For some reason on that day, I didn’t turn on the radio but just headed back to work. The minute I walked in, other staff members immediately began to try to tell me what had happened. It was so shocking, so unbelievable, we just stood around looking at each other. We were not sure if this was a part of a major conspiracy or what.

Waters was aware that Dallas was a hotbed of paranoid right-wing activity in those days. “Nut country,” as JFK reportedly called it. She continues:

Meanwhile, my boss was waiting with a thousand others at the Trade Mart for the president to arrive. An announcement was made to those waiting that the president had been shot. My boss was a canny old field news reporter and knew people with press passes. He managed to get in with the press and get out to Parkland Hospital to the Emergency Entrance. I don’t think that he ever got inside, just to the entrance. He was there when they made the final pronouncement. He shared all this with us back at the museum via phone.

So, was there any unusual activity at the bunker when JFK was shot?

“No, we didn’t notice anything suspicious about the shelter on that ominous day,” Waters says. “We racked our brains later trying to think but nothing came up.”

Seymour Melman, the noted leftist professor of industrial engineering and fallout shelter skeptic, once said: “We ought to learn something from the Second World War in this respect, and the bombing there, even by Second World War bombs in Hamburg, Tokyo, and other cities showed that shelters became centers for incinerating or asphyxiating the people who were in them.”

Although the Dallas museum bunker may well have been better suited for managing an assassination than a nuclear war, its ultimate function was apparently serving as the world’s most interesting and expensive basement.

Footnotes for this article are available from newbonner@gmail.com.

Russiagate Circus Promoter Scott Dworkin Blocks Critics, Falls For Gorilla Channel Hoax

Last week, we published a story by Amy Sterling Casil showing how Democratic Coalition Against Trump Super PAC leader Scott Dworkin was cashing in on Russiagate. Dworkin, a #Resistance heartthrob who claims to have “helped uncover” Russiagate, raised $229,000 for the Super PAC in 2017, of which 80 percent went to his for-profit consulting firm, Bulldog Finance Group, and to four political operators he works with.

Dworkin has apparently used very little of the money for his stated goal of impeaching Trump. A billboard slamming California congressman Devin Nunes is the only identifiable non-salary or overhead expenditure directly related to “opposing Trump” on the Super PAC’s mid-year 2017 report. Total cost to Dworkin’s organization: $1,917, less than 1 percent of its revenue.

Dworkin responded to the story by by blocking Amy and I on Twitter, as well as Geoff Campbell, who also reported on the topic, and people who retweeted our stories as well. He also took to Twitter and urged MSNBC hack  Joy Reid to come to his defense. What Dowrkin didn’t do was rebut the information in the stories.

Meanwhile, Dworkin’s Twitter feed continues to be unintentionally amusing. He recently fell for a bogus story about the White House creating a fake “Gorilla Channel” to entertain the president, which just goes to show, some commentators noted, how desperate liberals are to believe anything about Trump. (Though admittedly, with Trump there’s not a lot that can be dismissed as unbelievable.)

Dworkin tweet, deleted after gorilla story was swiftly revealed to be bogus.

 

The general IQ os his Twitter feed can be seen in the cover image that accompanies this story: “Trump the Fraud dissolved the voter fraud commission that was a fraud in the first place. He’s the biggest fraud out of frauds. Congrats Crooked Donald!”

Dworkin should be careful about calling anyone a fraud and he doesn’t appear to be any smarter than our dimwit president This would all be funny if not for the fact that Russiagate has consumed the country and is destroying innocent people’s lives. Trump’s economic and social policies are mostly terrible, they should be vigorously opposed. Instead, Dworkin and other #Resistance grifters continue to promote Russiagate to advance their Clintonesque political agenda,  and to profit.

 

Trump Builds Wall Of Trees To Hide ‘Wristy’ Release During Golf Holiday (Not Satire, All Quotes Authentic)

In one of his most diabolical moves yet, President Donald Trump blocked CNN from watching him play golf at his Mar-a-Lago course on the eve of New Year’s Eve.

“CNN news cameras did not get any video of President Trump playing golf,” explained host Ana Cabrara. “And here’s why: where CNN cameras were once positioned, trees appear. Yes, new trees are being planted there.”

Sure enough, the accompanying video presented convincing evidence of a John Deere backhoe loader planting the new trees.

The timber was no doubt a welcome relief to the driver of the white truck who several days earlier had the job of blocking CNN’s view while constantly hiding his face behind his hand, as seen on video and denied by the Secret Service and the local sheriff’s office.

When asked to comment on the tree blockage, former Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter told CNN, “It’s tragic, really.”

But to be perfectly frank, it’s really no big loss, because CNN’s analysis of Trump’s golf game sucks. In fact, it’s almost as if Wolf Blitzer’s crew doesn’t know anything about the sport at all.

For that we must turn to Golf Digest, whose editor-in-chief Jaime Diaz played two rounds with the president and reported what he saw.

“He was not particularly long off the tee—averaging about 230 yards—but a big reason was a steep downswing that produced a low fade and was better suited to good iron play,” Diaz revealed.

Then he gave the real lowdown:

Trump’s swing is imperfect but grooved, and it soon engenders a certainty that nothing really bad is going to happen to his golf ball. He has a flat takeaway well to the inside and loads hard onto his right side. Before starting down, his shoulder plane raises into what at first looks like a duffer’s over-the-top move. But Trump simultaneously unleashes the kind of aggressive opening of the left hip that is rarely seen in older amateurs, clearing the way for the club to release from an inside path.

But Trump is not interested in whatever that quote means. “I never really wanted to know a lot about my technique,” he told Diaz. “I really trust instinct a lot, in golf and a lot of things.”

The president did declassify one secret about his technique, however. “For me, it’s all about the hips,” he said.

“I’m a great putter,” he also couldn’t help bragging. But Diaz begged to differ, noting that the president’s putting suffers from “a wristy release.”

The media spent a lot of time over the New Year holiday reporting on how often Trump golfs. It was noted that he hypocritically accused Obama of golfing too much and that he golfed six days in a row after tweeting, “I hope everyone is having a great Christmas, then tomorrow it’s back to work in order to Make America Great Again.”

But for the record, December 30th marked Trump’s 85th visit to one of his golf properties during the first year of his presidency. That might seem like a lot, but he’s going to have to pick up the pace if he wants to keep up with President Eisenhower, who played over 800 rounds of golf while in office, according to Smithsonian.

“Ike” even commissioned a 3,000-square-foot putting green just outside the Oval Office, where the hardwood floor reportedly still has scars from his golf spikes.

Trump’s critics should be encouraging him to golf more instead of less. After all, it’s probably the most (and possibly only) presidential thing he does. According to The Atlantic, only Teddy Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, and Jimmy Carter never golfed while in office.

Really, Atlantic? FDR golfed?

Warren Buffett Proves Rhode Island Governor Is An Idiot Or A Crook

Gina Raimondo

Let’s imagine for a moment that you are a public school teacher in Rhode Island and that you work in a district that deposits your weekly retirement savings into the state public pension system, known as the Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island (ERSRI). Then imagine that a general treasurer was elected as a “reform” candidate and proceeded to invest the pension in hedge funds that in turn finance charter schools, meaning that on every pay stub you see a deduction to bust your own labor union. Think this is the stuff of a bad Kafka impersonator? Think again, it’s not a fantasy; this is the real world! And it only gets loonier as we go along, kids!

Let’s start with the most recent development in a saga that is nearing its tenth anniversary of complete lunacy. On January 5, The Real News filed a story headlined Warren Buffett Wins $1 Million Bet That Hedge Funds Are a Rip-Off. As told by reporter Gregory Wilpert, interviewing economist William K. Black: “Ten years ago, Buffett placed a bet against the managers of the hedge fund Protégé Partners, saying that an investment in a stock index would outperform an investment in a basket of hedge funds. The bet concluded at the end of 2017, and it was clear that the stock index had outperformed the hedge funds by a factor of 3:1.”

Now let’s step back to 2010. Rhode Island’s political landscape is an infamous hive of corruption that stems from how the old ethnic gangs went legit and became politicians after the Second World War, with Irish and Italians being particularly prevalent. For decades the treasury had been run as a bail-out fund by the state legislature to finance idiotic moves.

In 2010, Gina Raimondo took office as general treasurer, which proved to be a stepping stone to the governor’s office in 2014. A fresh-faced venture capitalist who maintained appearances of being divorced from the shenanigans of her predecessors, Raimondo took substantial campaign funds from Enron alum John Arnold, who has a longtime axe to grind against public pensions. Raimondo’s hubby, Andrew Moffit, is himself a charter school industrial player of dubious merit.

The record of charter schools is as ghastly as it is corrupt. The financial abuses rampant in the system are small potatoes next to the massive systemic wrongs that come into play with regards to special education, minority and English as a Second Language. Scandals across the country stemming from charter schools’ poor management of budgets, abuse of students and lack of job protections for teachers fill reams of paper.

The financial industry uses hedge funds to finance efforts at privatizing all types of public assets. Wall Street’s targeting of public education and teacher unions has been so substantial that American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten (not known as a firebrand and whose endorsement of Hillary sealed the fate of Bernie Sanders with the AFL-CIO) created a blacklist of anti-union firms that her constituent unions should divest from and/or not invest with in the future. Such a move sent up such red flags that, as a response, the blacklisted firms put up giant billboards in Times Square as retribution.

Once in office, Raimondo reformed the pension system by investing it in these hedge funds, such as Dan Loeb’s Third Point Management, as well as a not-so-blind trust that she put her assets into when she entered public service.

In the debate leading up to that policy shift, Raimondo used highfalutin business speak that left most union members dumbfounded and confused, something profiled brilliantly several years ago in a story by Matt Taibbi. He quoted Paul Doughty, the current president of the Providence firefighters union, saying, “She’s Yale, Harvard, Oxford – she worked on Wall Street. Nobody wanted to be the first to raise his hand and admit he didn’t know what the fuck she was talking about.”

When all was said and done, Raimondo promised that her investments were going to yield substantial returns. This was despite the very public bet the Oracle of Omaha had made about such investments three years earlier.

Now Buffett has definitively shown that all this was nonsense and obfuscation. Here is how Black put it on The Real News:

Hedge funds, unlike the big banks, are not typically publicly traded, so you actually have very little information about them. But very commonly, they pay out far more. Little hedge funds pay out far more in compensation for their CEOs than do the absolute largest banks in the world, and this can be by a factor of 10. In other words, there are a number of hedge funds in any given year that may pay the CEO more than $100 million, in fact, well over $100 million in a year. Right? So, presumably, they must be doing something fantastic to warrant that money that the rest of us couldn’t possibly do, and mere top bankers in the world can’t do. And so Buffett’s bet tested that proposition and it found it was all an enormous lie.

Now the question is whether Raimondo knew she was sinking all that pension money into a failure — with an estimated loss of nearly $2 billion in June 2015, now calculated as the largest financial scandal in the state’s long history of fiscal fiascos — or because she was just a combination of naive and stupid.

Either way, Raimondo has a lot to answer for. As Vice Chair of the Democratic Governors Association for the 2018 election cycle, a Clinton 2016 super-delegate, member of the Council on Foreign Relations and an Aspen Institute Rodel fellow, it looks obvious to many in the Ocean State she has her eyes on Washington. Whether Buffett’s bet will focus attention on the fact that she is responsible for the largest fiscal loss in the state’s history is anyone’s guess.

Hillary’s Knitgate, Bernie’s Jacketgate and Faux Resistance Outrage

Over the holidays, Hillary Clinton super fans lost their minds over a poorly done video by Vanity Fair editors in which several of the publication’s employees proposed mocking New Years resolutions to Hillary Clinton. One woman, for example, suggested Clinton take up knitting.

The video poked the beehive of Clinton fans on social media, who attacked the magazine and demanded to Vanity Fair editors that anyone involved in the video be fired. Several Clinton fans pushed the #CancelVanityFair hashtag, urging Hillary supporters to cancel their subscriptions.

The faux outrage is similar to that of some Alt-right protests, which have included burning NFL jerseys to oppose Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the National Anthem to protest police brutality and racism. Another was destroying Keurig coffee makers because the company pulled its ads from Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

This outrage stems from a fragile sense of politics in which all content that dares challenge the infallibility of a political figure/celebrity must be met with condemnation, boycotts, and termination of employment. Vanity Fair is an elitist rag that celebrates excess wealth. The outrage over the publication’s video was heightened by the fact that its audience overlaps with a part of Hillary Clinton’s super fan base, the ultra-wealthy and those who idolize hyper-capitalism.

For these fans, publications are supposed to serve as public relations puppets for their hero and any and all criticism of Hillary is instantly dismissed as unacceptable dissent by conservatives, Bernie Bros or Kremlin trolls.  Several people with large social media followings have built their followings with rigid adherence to this notion and seek to build outrage toward any perceived slight of Clinton out of desperation that her political clout is waning.

On the other side of this faux outrage machine are hot takes or misleading hit pieces on her political opponents. Last week, neoconservative worm Ben Shapiro’s publication, the Daily Wire, alleged that Bernie Sanders is a hypocrite for wearing a $700 coat during New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s swearing-in ceremony.

The claim was regurgitated by Newsweek in a story with the blaring headline, “SOCIALIST BERNIE SANDERS WEARS A $700 JACKET WHILE COMPLAINING ABOUT RICH PEOPLE,” and which chastised the Vermont senator because he is “famous for slamming the billionaire class.”

Jacketgate was celebrated by the Clinton fan beehive, though easily debunked. The overwrought stories failed to note that the jacket was a 2016 Christmas gift from his wife’s son, Dave Driscoll, who works for Burton Snowboards, the Vermont based company which makes it. (Jane Sanders tweeted about the gift a year ago.) Newsweek hasn’t changed its initial report, though thus far no one is  childishly calling for the reporter to be fired or the publication to be boycotted.

This genre of stupid anti-Sanders stories seek to distract from the senator’s popular policy proposals and the work of progressives who are working to build a movement against Trump and Republicans. In contrast, the aspirations of the Clinton wing of the Resistance begin and end with Trump’s removal, rather than building a movement that fights poverty, racial injustice, and the Republican agenda. Their fantasy is of a new era of bipartisanship that pushes through bad policies that hurt most Americans in exchange for continuing to enrich the wealthy, special interests and corporations.

The Trump/Bannon Feud, Explained*: Plus, How Does This Impact the Impeachment Scenario?

If you watch or read the news anymore, especially if it’s about Donald Trump or the weather, you’re pretty much forced to conclude that End Times are upon us. We will all freeze and starve due to Bombogenesis (Note: image below from Winter 2017 hysteria, so perhaps not) or die in a thermonuclear holocaust triggered by a Trump Tweet. At this point, CNN and the other cable networks should merge their politics and weather desks into a combined Trumpzageddon unit in order to best streamline their operations.

2016 image from –who else? — Mother Jones

 

Into this storm comes Michael Wolff’s new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, which has dominated the news for the past two days (and still going strong). “As ‘Fire and Fury’ is published, Europe openly debates: ‘Is Trump still sane?” is a fresh headline from the Washington Post.

Much of the news attention has focused on comments made to Wolff by Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon, who said the 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between the president’s son and a group of Russians was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic,” and who predicted that investigators would “crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.” Trump responded by saying of Bannon, “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”

There are dozens of often hysterical interpretations of what all of this means, and I’m going to clear it all up for you right now. Actually, I’m not, which is why there’s an asterisk in the headline. But I did speak to a number of interesting people about the situation, and I’m going to share their insights about what’s going on and the implications. Trust me, it will be far more informative and interesting than at least 99 percent of what’s being reported.

Source 1 is a Trump supporter from the Drain the Swamp faction, and a former senior intelligence officer who has good ties to Republicans in Washington. Here’s what he said:

The split between Bannon and Trump is greatly exaggerated. They operate in lockstep. This is a diversion. When they had to get rid of Reince Priebus as chief of staff, they parachuted in Anthony Scaramucci [as White House communications director] and within 10 days they both were gone. It created a media storm, but it didn’t do any lasting damage to Trump.

Trump is going to make some moves in terms of personnel and policy, probably at the State of the Union, and he needs a distraction so they don’t care that this is getting attention. Look for [General H.R.] McMaster to be removed as National Security Advisor. He was imposed on Trump, and [White House chief of staff John] Kelly doesn’t like him. Trump has political room to maneuver now with passage of the tax bill and he wants to get rid of him. There may be a change at State too.

In terms of policy, the two big issues are going to be term limits and the border. They’re going to compromise on the Dreamers; they’re not going to deport people who came here when they were kids, but they’re going to shut the door. And they’re not going to build a Berlin Wall on the border, which is the public perception, but they’re going to speed up doing it in pieces and creating zones and corridors that can be patrolled.

Bannon draws a lot of fire, he’s a lightning rod, but these guys are Machiavellian. They know to play the media.

(Is is far-fetched to think that the Trump-Bannon feud is a contrivance? I’m not convinced, but it doesn’t seem impossible. I don’t think Trump is a master strategist, as a lot of his supporters will tell you, but I don’t think he’s an idiot either. There’s no doubt, though, that he knows how to play an audience, whether it’s the public or, especially, the press. If you doubt that, go back and watch a few episodes of The Apprentice.)

Source 2 is Jim Jatras, another Drain the Swamper and a man whose views are always interesting. An occasional Washington Babylon contributor, Jim is a former senior foreign policy adviser to the Senate Republican leadership and is currently a Washington-based media and government relations specialist. Here’s his view:

There’s a split between Bannon and Trump, over domestic policy, not foreign policy. Bannon was for Ted Cruz before he was for Trump. He’s not exactly an anti-interventionist — he’s said war with China is inevitable, for example — but he’s upset with Trump’s domestic policies. He wanted to start with a big infrastructure program, because he knew if Trump dangled that the Democrats would come running, and then do immigration and trade.

But, instead, Trump listened to Reince Priebus and Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, and he tried to repeal Obamacare and went for the tax cut. The establishment wing of the party wanted the tax cut, and after it passed top Republicans went to the White House and were praising Trump in over-the-top language. But that’s not going to help him with his base, and people who voted for Trump after voting for Obama twice are not going to support him because hedge fund billionaires are getting a tax break for carried interest.

Inch by inch he’s becoming a conventional Republican, as if that will save him. His personality quirks will remain, but that’s about it. He’s got the same deep state types who want to bring him down running his foreign policy. The Mercers, who announced they are cutting their funding for Bannon, are total neocons.

The neocons would love to lead him down the garden path to disaster in Iran or North Korea. Who’s going to get blamed if half of South Korea is incinerated, Trump or William Kristol and David Frum? Those guys have never paid a price for their mistakes and they won’t now either.

His new Republican friends will abandon him at the first sign of trouble. If Democrats win the House in 2018, Trump is going to be impeached, and a lot of Republicans who are smiling at him now will stab him in the back. With the neocons he’s clasping an asp to his bosom by accepting their agenda. There is no upside.

This feud with Bannon hurts him, at least a little. Bannon is largely irrelevant, but Trump’s going to be hurt if he doesn’t engage with his base, which thus far has been pretty resilient. They watch Fox and ignore the inside baseball, but they won’t support him forever if he doesn’t deliver something.

Source 3 is Washington Babylon‘s very own podcast producer, David Slavick. But that’s not why I spoke to him about this topic. David also used to work at a Washington think tank and is plugged into the Democratic community and has all sorts of interesting sources. Here’s his take:

When Trump passed the tax bill, Republicans fell in love with him. That’s when he realized he could be the next Reagan, especially if he pulls the trigger with Iran. 

Bannon believed Trump had core ideological leanings, but he has now seen the tax bill and Trump’s embrace of an aggressive foreign policy. Bannon helped make Trump, and this open feud is counterintuitive. But he’s in panic mode and has no influence left at the White House, so all he can do is scare Trump’s base. 

Trump is like Reagan, who was a movement guy who became the ultimate establishment guy. Reagan was an outsider in the 1970s, and he used Barry Goldwater but ultimately betrayed him. It’s similar with Trump: he was an outsider who’s becoming an insider, and he’s betraying Bannonism.

I think this feud strengthens Trump politically. Bringing in the establishment is the only way he gets out of Russiagate alive. Otherwise, he’s going to be bird-dogged by this for his entire time in office and possibly be a one-term president. So he’s cutting the base loose in favor of these new alliances. It makes the neocons more powerful than ever because he’s brought them into the White House, and the Democrats will have a hard time attacking them because they rehabilitated these same neocons because they were all on the same side about Russiagate.

 

 

The Resistance Inc: Scott Dworkin and the Anti-Trump Gravy Train

Twitter personality, MSNBC regular and Democratic Coalition against Trump co-founder Scott Dworkin has led the effort to uncover alleged collusion — or what Dworkin now calls “collaboration” — between Vladimir Putin’s government and Donald Trump’s campaign and administration.

 

Dworkin, who has 279,000 Twitter followers and is a frequent guest on MSNBC’s “AM Joy” show hosted by Joy Reid, has a long resume and knows a lot of influential people.

 

 

Last February, Dworkin threatened Democratic opposition researcher Will Caskey with a lawsuit because Caskey questioned Dworkin’s social media requests for money to “research” Donald Trump.

 

 

Caskey responded with the Coalition’s FEC report from the time period.

 

 

After the threats of litigation last February, Caskey wrote a very useful Medium article explaining how Super PACs operate. Dworkin’s Super PAC, The Democratic Coalition Against Trump, raised more than $221,000 in 2017 according to FEC filings.

 

 

One would think, given the name of the organization, that the Coalition would spend this money opposing Donald J. Trump.

Think again.

During the second quarter of 2017, the Coalition paid Dworkin’s for-profit consulting firm, Bulldog Finance Group, a total of $22,500. The organization’s mid-year report to the FEC also showed payments of $11,500 to FWD Communications, a business operated by Jarad Geldner, who is identified as “Senior Advisor” on the Coalition’s website.

The organization rents office space at a Green Desk location in Brooklyn for $1,300 a month and appears to pay its Executive Director Nathan Lerner $2,750 bi-monthly. Next Level Digital, a company owned by Chuck Westover, a “Senior Advisor” to the Coalition, received $11,670.11.

 

 

Total payments made to the four men and to Dworkin’s Bulldog Finance Group come to more than $180,000 over a twelve month period. That’s more than 80 percent of what Dworkin’s SuperPAC raised in 2017.

The Democratic Coalition Against Trump advertises for interns on its website and via college and university blogs. The internships are unpaid, although an unnamed “stipend” is offered to “campaign associates” willing to work at least 20 hours a week. “National Fundraising Director” Demitri Dawson received one payment for $398.31 on the Coalition’s second quarter 2017 report.

For the second quarter of 2017 alone, more than 140 people donated to the Coalition, in amounts ranging from a few dollars up to $10,000. Among them were nurses, homemakers, retirees, artists, writers, investment advisers and members of local government commissions.

With some Super PACs raising tens of millions of dollars, the $229,000 raised by Dworkin’s organization seems like small change.

Just like The Democratic Coalition Against Trump’s 2017 media footprint. Between June and December, @Funder produced no news articles. The June news article in the image below ran at Breitbart.

 

 

The much-advertised billboard slamming California member of Congress Devin Nunes cost Dworkin’s organization $1,917 — less than 1 percent of its revenue. It’s the only identifiable non-salary or overhead expenditure directly related to “opposing Trump” on the Super PAC’s mid-year 2017 report.

 

 

The cost of the Democratic Coalition’s website dedicated to impeaching Trump, boycotting Trump and hosting “Artists Against Trump” cost — well, see for yourself.

 

 

As Will Caskey pointed out in February, even the most ridiculously false statements made by Super PACs are considered protected speech and protected against lawsuits or punishment by court rulings.

Dworkin’s Twitter bio prominently states he “helped uncover the Trump-Russia scandal” and Dworkin regularly makes ridiculous claims on MSNBC and social media. No matter how much you hate or fear Donald Trump, no one should contribute to Dworkin’s Super PAC and if you do, at least know that your money won’t be primarily used to impeach him.

Indeed, impeachment would be bad news for Dworkin because it would bring an end to the Russiagate gravy train that has been a steady source of income for him and his friends. @Funder paid himself $57,000 during the first quarter of 2017 to “Fight Trump.” He doesn’t need any more of your money to maintain his toxic Twitter feed.

 

 [Note: A version of this story appeared at Medium.com.]

“Ballot Harvesting”: Something Is Rotten in California, and Heading Your Way Soon

To get right to the point, the emerging political “art” of “ballot harvesting” is sketchy at best and flat-out corrupt at worst. Since you’ve probably never heard of it, ballot harvesting is the practice of hand delivering another person’s mail-in or early ballot to a polling place. It is often performed by paid door-to-door canvassers or volunteers working for political candidates.

The practice is sometimes framed in terms of partisan politics, with Democrats being for it and Republicans against it. However, this is the wrong way to examine the issue. It’s a larger question of ethics, and ethics should never be viewed through the lens of Us vs. Them. Moreover, candidates and Political Action Committees (PACs) from both parties have utilized the practice. Lastly, trust me, Democrats have got a head start with this sleazy tactic, but if history is any guide, the always better-funded GOP will end up exploiting it much more efficiently and ruthlessly.

Ballot harvesting made headlines in 2015 when a practitioner working for a PAC named Citizens for a Better Arizona was caught on video stuffing hundreds of ballots into an unattended voting box. The following year, Senator John McCain was accused of utilizing the tactic to defeat Dr. Kelli Ward after one of his canvassers tweeted, “Going to chase down early ballots in a pencil skirt for @TeamMcCain!”

Arizona is one of 19 states that have now outlawed the practice. Nonetheless, the matter made its way to the Supreme Court in the fall of 2016 after the Ninth Circuit overturned Arizona’s ban. The high court stayed the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, keeping the ban in place.

In the fall of 2016, a California Assembly bill was signed into law that allowed for unlimited ballot harvesting. What makes this especially worrisome is that half of Californians vote by mail, and that share is growing.

It’s easy to see — and entirely plausible — how this new law could further compromise electoral integrity. For example, canvassers claiming to work for one candidate could take voters’ ballots and complete them on behalf of another candidate.

Then there’s the possibility of voter coercion. In California, evangelical churches, unions and political organizations already routinely hold ballot parties, where participants are virtually certain to vote the desired way. What’s to stop these groups or individuals — like your boss — from going to the next level and coercing you to vote as they demand? Or to toss your ballot if you don’t choose properly?

We’ve already seen this occur during the voter registration process countless times in our history. And what about “Granny Farming”? Older voters in convalescent homes are already targeted with pre-marked absentee ballots. There are multiple threats posed by ballot harvesting, including the certainty that Fox News will soon be rolling out endless stories claiming that this proves once and for all that Democrats are guilty of massive electoral fraud.

In California, Assembly candidate Wendy Carrillo hired a group called GroundWorks to canvass and harvest mail ballots in her recent successful campaign. The Service Employees International Union-California paid for the work. (As an aside, it’s important to note here that SEIU does not support California’s Medicare-for-all bill and has been hand-picking candidates that will acquiesce to its terrible position.)

Dr. Ron Birnbaum ran against Carillo in the Democratic primary and witnessed the ballot harvesting monkey business first hand, so I was pleased to be able to discuss the problem with him in depth. The interview was lightly edited for length and clarity.

TDB: What worries you the most in regard to ballot harvesting?

RB: The Assembly bill expands the list of persons who may bring in a ballot on behalf of a voter. This can include political parties, paid political committees, members of a campaign, anyone. There is no limit on the number of ballots an individual can bring in, and people can be paid to do this work with the single stipulation that they can’t be paid on a per ballot basis. 

While on its surface this would appear to make it “easier to vote,” it’s probably better to say that this allows campaigns with more resources to make it easier for their supporters to vote. And this potential inequity is not what scares me the most. 

Third parties, such as campaigns or paid field operations, can now bother or cajole or potentially intimidate voters into giving them their ballots. The most susceptible to this intimidation are those least likely to know how to report it or protect themselves from it. There is very little to stop tampering with ballots, vote-buying or even discarding of ballots.

Since the law went into effect in January 2017, Northeast Los Angeles has seen a number of special elections, and in each case there have been reports of ballot harvesting. In more than one of these cases a paid field consultant operation called Groundworks appeared to be involved, but it is not clear if the practice has been limited to them. In theory anyone can do it.

TB: Do you think people who frame this as a partisan issue are wrong?

RB: Yes and no. Ultimately this is a non-partisan issue in that it helps candidates with more resources have an easier time winning elections, regardless of affiliation. That said, the bill was passed on virtually a party line vote in the legislature. It seems that only one Democratic member of the Assembly, Mike Gatto, joined all Republicans in voting against it. 

In California, this will end up largely favoring candidates I would describe as “establishment Democrats,” but I see no reason why Republicans will not take up this approach and use it to their advantage in certain districts as well. It is non-partisan in that this is basically about people in power making it easier for their favored candidates to win elections. 

Knowledgeable political operatives acknowledge that the persons most susceptible to these techniques would be persons with limited education on voting rights and procedures or language limitations, in particular immigrant Latino and Asian voters in parts of Los Angeles. This may have made this approach appealing to Democrats as they assumed that these methods would work well for their party’s candidates. I am the son of Latino immigrants myself, and new voters bring a real fervor and passion and deep knowledge to civic participation, but that does not mean that many immigrants are invulnerable to being manipulated.

TB: Do you think ballot harvesting affected the outcome of your primary special election?

RB: It’s hard to say. It’s a matter of public record that most voters voted by mail but based on my initial inquiries, the state registrar is not keeping track or publishing numbers of ballots brought in by third parties.

SEIU-CA and affiliates created a large, well-funded independent expenditure committee on behalf of the winning candidate. That committee — Working Families for Wendy Carrillo — hired Groundworks as a paid canvassing operation, and it is the emerging expert on exploiting the new rules. 

More than half of Wendy’s votes were Vote by Mail. The special election turnout was relatively small and the victory margin not particularly large. It might have changed the outcome, but we just can’t say. But it has tremendous potential to change outcomes in elections going forward, and all over the state.  

TB: Does the issue of ballot harvesting bear any relationship to the issue of voter suppression?

RB: Yes, but not necessarily in the way that one might think. A classical understanding of ‘voter suppression’ is that it involves decreasing the number of votes, in particular from vulnerable populations. Ballot harvesting would seem to increase participation from certain vulnerable populations, and so its proponents would argue that it is the opposite of voter suppression. 

I might even agree with them if reforms were aimed at increasing a given group of vulnerable voters’ potential to vote for whomever they want, but that is not the case. invariably candidates with the most sophisticated and well-resourced operations will be favored.  

Voter suppression and ballot harvesting have a shared logic: they seek to manipulate election results on behalf of the powerful by manipulating vulnerable voters. Ultimately, we have a problem with low voter turnout, especially among the poor. There are many reasons for this, and not all the reasons are clear. But one potential reason is that too many people believe their vote doesn’t matter in a rigged system.

Ballot harvesting will contribute to that despair and cynicism. In that sense I believe it will ultimately directly suppress the vote. One of the darkest parts of living in this period of history is the feeling that democratic institutions are in decline. We have to stand by them. The legislature achieved the direct opposite with the bill on ballot harvesting.

"Ballot Harvesting": Something Is Rotten in California, and Heading Your Way Soon

To get right to the point, the emerging political “art” of “ballot harvesting” is sketchy at best and flat-out corrupt at worst. Since you’ve probably never heard of it, ballot harvesting is the practice of hand delivering another person’s mail-in or early ballot to a polling place. It is often performed by paid door-to-door canvassers or volunteers working for political candidates.

The practice is sometimes framed in terms of partisan politics, with Democrats being for it and Republicans against it. However, this is the wrong way to examine the issue. It’s a larger question of ethics, and ethics should never be viewed through the lens of Us vs. Them. Moreover, candidates and Political Action Committees (PACs) from both parties have utilized the practice. Lastly, trust me, Democrats have got a head start with this sleazy tactic, but if history is any guide, the always better-funded GOP will end up exploiting it much more efficiently and ruthlessly.

Ballot harvesting made headlines in 2015 when a practitioner working for a PAC named Citizens for a Better Arizona was caught on video stuffing hundreds of ballots into an unattended voting box. The following year, Senator John McCain was accused of utilizing the tactic to defeat Dr. Kelli Ward after one of his canvassers tweeted, “Going to chase down early ballots in a pencil skirt for @TeamMcCain!”

Arizona is one of 19 states that have now outlawed the practice. Nonetheless, the matter made its way to the Supreme Court in the fall of 2016 after the Ninth Circuit overturned Arizona’s ban. The high court stayed the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, keeping the ban in place.

In the fall of 2016, a California Assembly bill was signed into law that allowed for unlimited ballot harvesting. What makes this especially worrisome is that half of Californians vote by mail, and that share is growing.

It’s easy to see — and entirely plausible — how this new law could further compromise electoral integrity. For example, canvassers claiming to work for one candidate could take voters’ ballots and complete them on behalf of another candidate.

Then there’s the possibility of voter coercion. In California, evangelical churches, unions and political organizations already routinely hold ballot parties, where participants are virtually certain to vote the desired way. What’s to stop these groups or individuals — like your boss — from going to the next level and coercing you to vote as they demand? Or to toss your ballot if you don’t choose properly?

We’ve already seen this occur during the voter registration process countless times in our history. And what about “Granny Farming”? Older voters in convalescent homes are already targeted with pre-marked absentee ballots. There are multiple threats posed by ballot harvesting, including the certainty that Fox News will soon be rolling out endless stories claiming that this proves once and for all that Democrats are guilty of massive electoral fraud.

In California, Assembly candidate Wendy Carrillo hired a group called GroundWorks to canvass and harvest mail ballots in her recent successful campaign. The Service Employees International Union-California paid for the work. (As an aside, it’s important to note here that SEIU does not support California’s Medicare-for-all bill and has been hand-picking candidates that will acquiesce to its terrible position.)

Dr. Ron Birnbaum ran against Carillo in the Democratic primary and witnessed the ballot harvesting monkey business first hand, so I was pleased to be able to discuss the problem with him in depth. The interview was lightly edited for length and clarity.

TDB: What worries you the most in regard to ballot harvesting?

RB: The Assembly bill expands the list of persons who may bring in a ballot on behalf of a voter. This can include political parties, paid political committees, members of a campaign, anyone. There is no limit on the number of ballots an individual can bring in, and people can be paid to do this work with the single stipulation that they can’t be paid on a per ballot basis. 

While on its surface this would appear to make it “easier to vote,” it’s probably better to say that this allows campaigns with more resources to make it easier for their supporters to vote. And this potential inequity is not what scares me the most. 

Third parties, such as campaigns or paid field operations, can now bother or cajole or potentially intimidate voters into giving them their ballots. The most susceptible to this intimidation are those least likely to know how to report it or protect themselves from it. There is very little to stop tampering with ballots, vote-buying or even discarding of ballots.

Since the law went into effect in January 2017, Northeast Los Angeles has seen a number of special elections, and in each case there have been reports of ballot harvesting. In more than one of these cases a paid field consultant operation called Groundworks appeared to be involved, but it is not clear if the practice has been limited to them. In theory anyone can do it.

TB: Do you think people who frame this as a partisan issue are wrong?

RB: Yes and no. Ultimately this is a non-partisan issue in that it helps candidates with more resources have an easier time winning elections, regardless of affiliation. That said, the bill was passed on virtually a party line vote in the legislature. It seems that only one Democratic member of the Assembly, Mike Gatto, joined all Republicans in voting against it. 

In California, this will end up largely favoring candidates I would describe as “establishment Democrats,” but I see no reason why Republicans will not take up this approach and use it to their advantage in certain districts as well. It is non-partisan in that this is basically about people in power making it easier for their favored candidates to win elections. 

Knowledgeable political operatives acknowledge that the persons most susceptible to these techniques would be persons with limited education on voting rights and procedures or language limitations, in particular immigrant Latino and Asian voters in parts of Los Angeles. This may have made this approach appealing to Democrats as they assumed that these methods would work well for their party’s candidates. I am the son of Latino immigrants myself, and new voters bring a real fervor and passion and deep knowledge to civic participation, but that does not mean that many immigrants are invulnerable to being manipulated.

TB: Do you think ballot harvesting affected the outcome of your primary special election?

RB: It’s hard to say. It’s a matter of public record that most voters voted by mail but based on my initial inquiries, the state registrar is not keeping track or publishing numbers of ballots brought in by third parties.

SEIU-CA and affiliates created a large, well-funded independent expenditure committee on behalf of the winning candidate. That committee — Working Families for Wendy Carrillo — hired Groundworks as a paid canvassing operation, and it is the emerging expert on exploiting the new rules. 

More than half of Wendy’s votes were Vote by Mail. The special election turnout was relatively small and the victory margin not particularly large. It might have changed the outcome, but we just can’t say. But it has tremendous potential to change outcomes in elections going forward, and all over the state.  

TB: Does the issue of ballot harvesting bear any relationship to the issue of voter suppression?

RB: Yes, but not necessarily in the way that one might think. A classical understanding of ‘voter suppression’ is that it involves decreasing the number of votes, in particular from vulnerable populations. Ballot harvesting would seem to increase participation from certain vulnerable populations, and so its proponents would argue that it is the opposite of voter suppression. 

I might even agree with them if reforms were aimed at increasing a given group of vulnerable voters’ potential to vote for whomever they want, but that is not the case. invariably candidates with the most sophisticated and well-resourced operations will be favored.  

Voter suppression and ballot harvesting have a shared logic: they seek to manipulate election results on behalf of the powerful by manipulating vulnerable voters. Ultimately, we have a problem with low voter turnout, especially among the poor. There are many reasons for this, and not all the reasons are clear. But one potential reason is that too many people believe their vote doesn’t matter in a rigged system.

Ballot harvesting will contribute to that despair and cynicism. In that sense I believe it will ultimately directly suppress the vote. One of the darkest parts of living in this period of history is the feeling that democratic institutions are in decline. We have to stand by them. The legislature achieved the direct opposite with the bill on ballot harvesting.

Is 2018 Going to Be 2017 All Over Again? Andrew Stewart’s Annual Political Prognostications & Forecast

Hop aboard, matey.

Many middle-class progressives I speak with say 2017 was an abominable year. For anti-imperial lefties and anti-intervention libertarians 2017 was also frightening, but for quite different reasons. Meanwhile, mainstream liberals and conservatives are a bunch of whiny pampered elitists, even worse than usual.

Those are the interesting starting positions from which we begin 2018, before the midterm election shit-show revs up for real. It will surely be promoted as a kind of referendum on the Trump presidency, perhaps styled as an inversion of the first midterms of Bill Clinton’s presidency, when he was pummeled by Newt Gingrich’s criminal (in every way) Contract with America.

What do those starting lines look like in practical terms? If a picture tells a thousand words, here are some important images.

Liberals

There’s obviously racism among white blue collar workers, but it’s equally obvious that the smug elitism of middle-class Democrats and the four decades of neoliberal policies they promoted broke the political and economic systems and helped bring us Donald Trump. Blaming the working class which they played a key role in destroying — NAFTA ring a bell? — is not a good look for the Democratic commentariat class. Also, seriously, did she write this tripe at a Starbucks?

Conservatives

Kristol, a scion of the neocon generation, is the supremely annoying guy who stays at the party way after everyone else has gone home. One could, if a masochist, write a Freudian analysis about Kristol’s absurd ramblings about the political party that disowned him and his catastrophic views of the past few decades, especially his ardent support for the Iraq War and other ill-fated overseas military ventures.

Trumpenproletarians

Let’s back up for a moment.

Between 2006 and 2008, the Democratic Party took back control of Congress as a practice run for the Obama ’08 White House campaign. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the entire neocon establishment were totally discredited, and a good chunk of the country would have favored that they face a Nuremberg-style war crimes tribunal owing to their role in the destruction of Iraq and the death or maiming of so many Americans.

But of course, the Democrats, being the Democrats, pissed all that away within a span of several months in order to appease their base of Wall Street donors, who had just, incidentally, driven the entire world economy towards the precipice of an apocalypse unseen in decades.

What then arose was a reaction to this bipartisan betrayal called the Tea Party. This insurgency was a threat to the the GOP leadership, which wanted to have things both ways by catering to the white nationalist elements within the base while marginalizing their candidates.

This worked for a few years until a game show host came along and financed his own presidential campaign, at which point he became leader of the free world and was almost instantaneously besieged by the various internal forces of the American empire colloquially called the Deep State.

And that’s why we find so many Trump voters still quasi-delusional about their president’s benign intentions. But that core of delusional Trump supporters has eroded, and likely will continue to do so in the event of a steep economic downturn. What happens then is anyone’s guess, but is frankly terrifying.

Progressives

As someone who considers himself on the left but with a profound aversion to the Democratic Party and #TheResistance, it’s a pretty bizarre landscape at the moment. Our Revolution, the latest iteration of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, could very well be defining political discourse in America. But it’s not, mostly because of a lack of leadership and the ineptitude of those who claim the mantle of leadership.

The Green Party, which is technically the largest progressive third party in America, is a mess due to internal personality spats and a massive structural problem that keeps it from being anything more than a confederation of about 50 individual state parties.

The Democratic Socialists of America, the successor of the Eugene Debs-Norman Thomas Socialist Party, was a marginal presence in American politics prior to the Sanders campaign. Its membership has exploded since 2016, but it is going through a longterm identity crisis that has every imaginable issue of debate on the table for discussion. In Providence, where I live, two members of DSA recently ran for a City Council seat and one of them, a Haitian woman, won. That is huge.

At the same time, Michael Harrington and Irving Howe, major co-founders of the DSA, were simply wrong on almost everything — from Vietnam to Zionism to the 1968 New York Teachers Union strike — and their notions of politics were straight out of the Manhattan cocktail party circuit. Hence, the organization is rife with contradictions and its growing pains may or may not be resolved before the 2018 midterms (or even 2020 and beyond).

What does that mean for the future? I’d like to tell you, but at this moment of history, your guess is as good as mine.

Is 2018 Going to Be 2017 All Over Again? Andrew Stewart's Annual Political Prognostications & Forecast

Hop aboard, matey.

Many middle-class progressives I speak with say 2017 was an abominable year. For anti-imperial lefties and anti-intervention libertarians 2017 was also frightening, but for quite different reasons. Meanwhile, mainstream liberals and conservatives are a bunch of whiny pampered elitists, even worse than usual.

Those are the interesting starting positions from which we begin 2018, before the midterm election shit-show revs up for real. It will surely be promoted as a kind of referendum on the Trump presidency, perhaps styled as an inversion of the first midterms of Bill Clinton’s presidency, when he was pummeled by Newt Gingrich’s criminal (in every way) Contract with America.

What do those starting lines look like in practical terms? If a picture tells a thousand words, here are some important images.

Liberals

There’s obviously racism among white blue collar workers, but it’s equally obvious that the smug elitism of middle-class Democrats and the four decades of neoliberal policies they promoted broke the political and economic systems and helped bring us Donald Trump. Blaming the working class which they played a key role in destroying — NAFTA ring a bell? — is not a good look for the Democratic commentariat class. Also, seriously, did she write this tripe at a Starbucks?

Conservatives

Kristol, a scion of the neocon generation, is the supremely annoying guy who stays at the party way after everyone else has gone home. One could, if a masochist, write a Freudian analysis about Kristol’s absurd ramblings about the political party that disowned him and his catastrophic views of the past few decades, especially his ardent support for the Iraq War and other ill-fated overseas military ventures.

Trumpenproletarians

Let’s back up for a moment.

Between 2006 and 2008, the Democratic Party took back control of Congress as a practice run for the Obama ’08 White House campaign. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the entire neocon establishment were totally discredited, and a good chunk of the country would have favored that they face a Nuremberg-style war crimes tribunal owing to their role in the destruction of Iraq and the death or maiming of so many Americans.

But of course, the Democrats, being the Democrats, pissed all that away within a span of several months in order to appease their base of Wall Street donors, who had just, incidentally, driven the entire world economy towards the precipice of an apocalypse unseen in decades.

What then arose was a reaction to this bipartisan betrayal called the Tea Party. This insurgency was a threat to the the GOP leadership, which wanted to have things both ways by catering to the white nationalist elements within the base while marginalizing their candidates.

This worked for a few years until a game show host came along and financed his own presidential campaign, at which point he became leader of the free world and was almost instantaneously besieged by the various internal forces of the American empire colloquially called the Deep State.

And that’s why we find so many Trump voters still quasi-delusional about their president’s benign intentions. But that core of delusional Trump supporters has eroded, and likely will continue to do so in the event of a steep economic downturn. What happens then is anyone’s guess, but is frankly terrifying.

Progressives

As someone who considers himself on the left but with a profound aversion to the Democratic Party and #TheResistance, it’s a pretty bizarre landscape at the moment. Our Revolution, the latest iteration of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, could very well be defining political discourse in America. But it’s not, mostly because of a lack of leadership and the ineptitude of those who claim the mantle of leadership.

The Green Party, which is technically the largest progressive third party in America, is a mess due to internal personality spats and a massive structural problem that keeps it from being anything more than a confederation of about 50 individual state parties.

The Democratic Socialists of America, the successor of the Eugene Debs-Norman Thomas Socialist Party, was a marginal presence in American politics prior to the Sanders campaign. Its membership has exploded since 2016, but it is going through a longterm identity crisis that has every imaginable issue of debate on the table for discussion. In Providence, where I live, two members of DSA recently ran for a City Council seat and one of them, a Haitian woman, won. That is huge.

At the same time, Michael Harrington and Irving Howe, major co-founders of the DSA, were simply wrong on almost everything — from Vietnam to Zionism to the 1968 New York Teachers Union strike — and their notions of politics were straight out of the Manhattan cocktail party circuit. Hence, the organization is rife with contradictions and its growing pains may or may not be resolved before the 2018 midterms (or even 2020 and beyond).

What does that mean for the future? I’d like to tell you, but at this moment of history, your guess is as good as mine.

The Big Grift: A Christmas Story

Regardless of what one thinks about global warming and inflation and the Russians and crime in the streets, our situation stinks. It is bad here, in these United States of Amnesia, and even worse elsewhere. Everybody seems to be grifting, hustling, struggling to get by. The big shots steal big; the rest of us grab what we can.  

As we grift along, we try to help where we can, contributing our soft-earned doubloons to one appealing Patreon grift after another. These poor creative people deserve it, we think. It’s the least we can do.

The least we can do is all most of us ever do, myself included. We pick for scraps down in a giant shit pit real world, a shit pit of hot takes and viral trespasses across ill-tended timelines, and each of us wants to gather our scraps as quickly as possible so we can scurry back to the online void.

To dwell on the Internet is to participate in our modernity; to use Twitter is to hate your life, perhaps even life itself. What will some vile senator or powerful editor or beta-male leftist freelancer do next, we wonder. The song remains the same: unless you’re earning that do re mi for some rich company or backed by the truly powerful, you’re chum in the water. “That’s entertainment,” warbled Paul Weller in 1980, and he’s still right.

Matt Taibbi, who is chum in the water on account of his alleged past misdeeds, wrote Griftopia in 2010, christening our age. The grift was in: the bosses were hustling us, and we were hustling each other. Everyone is a free lance, peddling a bunch of banal, easily-thinkable thoughts instead of their polearms.

Not that this has made us savvier consumers. You’d think we could resist a presidential grift, but millions doubled down on that brand. Why not? We own closets full of LuLaRoe merchandise and other multi-level marketing scamwear. We are a hopeful bunch, convinced we know something, and we hurry to act on our hunches and intuition. Bitcoin in our coinpurse today…tomorrow, the world!

“You don’t know a fucking thing,” my father, a grifter who retired early, used to tell me. “And neither do I. People aren’t stupid, but they’re lazy. They lie because it’s easier than remembering, and they’ll believe your lies because not thinking at all sure as hell beats thinking twice.”

My father was a great scammer, so fooling him was easy peasy. The more accustomed we get to conning, which requires a vast amount of effort, the less energy we have to resist the cons of others.

The mere chance that he might receive money for nothing launched my father into a state of enthusiasm; he would give up everything for a shot at doing nothing. He pulled out all the stops on the off chance he might stop and steal a moment’s respite.

As my father aged his way first towards irrelevance and then towards death, he realized that the world, at least his world, was indeed going to end. He had come close to that grass crown a few times, bumming around the semi-pro football ranks and owning airplanes and businesses and such, but missing the big payoff by a few moments at some appointed destination — the way all heist movies conclude. He had seen Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing many times; he knew what lay in store for him.

He was skeptical about the possibility for reform. Each generation existed to fuck over the previous one — ”après nous, le déluge!” — and why the hell not? You get only one crack at the piñata.

“If it came down to you or me, I hope you’d want it to be you because I’d sure as hell want it to me,” he repeatedly told me. That admonition used to haunt me, but now I find his candor refreshing. Unlike the Baby Boomers who came after him, he owned up to the disaster he left in his wake.

Grifting ought to start at home. My father stole tens of thousands of dollars from me, turning me into a full-time beast of burden by age 17, but nobody needs to hear that sob story retold. He never denied his crimes, unlike every politician I’ve had the pleasure of observing. He didn’t tell me he was charging me for modeling photos he promised he would share with fashion executives or say that he was using his don’t-ever-pay-writers platform to give me exposure or any of that shit. No, he screwed me over and said, “Hey, it was you or me, buddy.”

All of us have an angle. The people who don’t seem to have an obvious product they’re peddling, the people who try to disguise their marketing methods,are the most loathsome. Anyone trading on virtue or incorruptibility is full of crap; it falls to outlets like Washington Babylon to trash them loudly and often.

If you see a lot of retweets or Facebook shares or whatever from a quasi-public figure, understand this: nine times out of ten, that person is running game, not speaking truth to power. Lana del Raytheon, that disgraced Twitter leftist, offered a prime example. There was no there there, just a nerdy person trading on exceedingly minor fame to prey upon naïve fans. How such a person can have fans is another story. 

A friend remarked recently that Twitter personalities “in the low five digits’ worth of followers seem to consist of people who have contributed something substantial to the world but are woefully overlooked online, and self-manufactured entities who are clearly overjoyed to have a voice and a platform in little tweety bird land.”  There are more of the latter than the former, and probably a lot of the former would like to be regarded among the latter, if only because that would mean a few more solicited pieces with the resulting paychecks.

Hey, Resistance, It’s Time To Surrender: There Was No Trump-Russia Collusion

There’s really no excuse for peddling the Russia interference story at this point other than sheer stupidity or craven opportunism, or both. I know it’s a challenge for #Resisters to read anything longer than a Tweet, but take a look at Jackson Lears’s story in the London Review of Books.

Anyone who reads this honestly knows that Donald Trump, as vile as he is — and that is plenty vile — did not collude with Vladimir Putin. Beat him at the ballot box with ideas, if you have any, but stop the ongoing campaign of regime change.

Here is the top from this devastating story. Game. Set. Match.

A story that had circulated during the campaign without much effect resurfaced: it involved the charge that Russian operatives had hacked into the servers of the Democratic National Committee, revealing embarrassing emails that damaged Clinton’s chances. With stunning speed, a new centrist-liberal orthodoxy came into being, enveloping the major media and the bipartisan Washington establishment. This secular religion has attracted hordes of converts in the first year of the Trump presidency. In its capacity to exclude dissent, it is like no other formation of mass opinion in my adult life, though it recalls a few dim childhood memories of anti-communist hysteria during the early 1950s.

The centrepiece of the faith, based on the hacking charge, is the belief that Vladimir Putin orchestrated an attack on American democracy by ordering his minions to interfere in the election on behalf of Trump. The story became gospel with breathtaking suddenness and completeness. Doubters are perceived as heretics and as apologists for Trump and Putin, the evil twins and co-conspirators behind this attack on American democracy. Responsibility for the absence of debate lies in large part with the major media outlets. Their uncritical embrace and endless repetition of the Russian hack story have made it seem a fait accompli in the public mind. It is hard to estimate popular belief in this new orthodoxy, but it does not seem to be merely a creed of Washington insiders. If you question the received narrative in casual conversations, you run the risk of provoking blank stares or overt hostility – even from old friends. This has all been baffling and troubling to me; there have been moments when pop-culture fantasies (body snatchers, Kool-Aid) have come to mind.

Like any orthodoxy worth its salt, the religion of the Russian hack depends not on evidence but on ex cathedra pronouncements on the part of authoritative institutions and their overlords. Its scriptural foundation is a confused and largely fact-free ‘assessment’ produced last January by a small number of ‘hand-picked’ analysts – as James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, described them – from the CIA, the FBI and the NSA. The claims of the last were made with only ‘moderate’ confidence. The label Intelligence Community Assessment creates a misleading impression of unanimity, given that only three of the 16 US intelligence agencies contributed to the report. And indeed the assessment itself contained this crucial admission: ‘Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation and precedents.’ Yet the assessment has passed into the media imagination as if it were unassailable fact, allowing journalists to assume what has yet to be proved. In doing so they serve as mouthpieces for the intelligence agencies, or at least for those ‘hand-picked’ analysts.

It is not the first time the intelligence agencies have played this role. When I hear the Intelligence Community Assessment cited as a reliable source, I always recall the part played by the New York Times in legitimating CIA reports of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s putative weapons of mass destruction, not to mention the long history of disinformation (a.k.a. ‘fake news’) as a tactic for advancing one administration or another’s political agenda. Once again, the established press is legitimating pronouncements made by the Church Fathers of the national security state. Clapper is among the most vigorous of these. He perjured himself before Congress in 2013, when he denied that the NSA had ‘wittingly’ spied on Americans – a lie for which he has never been held to account. In May 2017, he told NBC’s Chuck Todd that the Russians were highly likely to have colluded with Trump’s campaign because they are ‘almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favour, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique’. The current orthodoxy exempts the Church Fathers from standards imposed on ordinary people, and condemns Russians – above all Putin – as uniquely, ‘almost genetically’ diabolical.

And here’s one more particularly interesting section.

Both the DNC hacking story and the one involving the emails of John Podesta, a Clinton campaign operative, involve a shadowy bunch of putatively Russian hackers called Fancy Bear – also known among the technically inclined as APT28. The name Fancy Bear was introduced by Dimitri Alperovitch, the chief technology officer of the cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike. Alperovitch is also a fellow at the Atlantic Council, an anti-Russian Washington think tank hired by the DNC to investigate the theft of their emails. In its report Crowdstrike puts forward close to zero evidence for its claim that those responsible were Russian, let alone for its assertion that they were affiliated with Russian military intelligence. And yet, from this point on, the assumption that this was a Russian cyber operation was unquestioned. When the FBI arrived on the scene, the Bureau either did not request or was refused access to the DNC servers; instead it depended entirely on the Crowdstrike analysis. Crowdstrike, meanwhile, was being forced to retract another claim, that the Russians had successfully hacked the guidance systems of the Ukrainian artillery. The Ukrainian military and the British International Institute for Strategic Studies both contradicted this claim, and Crowdstrike backed down. But its DNC analysis was allowed to stand and even become the basis for the January Intelligence Community Assessment.

To #TheResistance, make sure to turn the lights out on your way out the door.

Hey, Resistance, It's Time To Surrender: There Was No Trump-Russia Collusion

There’s really no excuse for peddling the Russia interference story at this point other than sheer stupidity or craven opportunism, or both. I know it’s a challenge for #Resisters to read anything longer than a Tweet, but take a look at Jackson Lears’s story in the London Review of Books.

Anyone who reads this honestly knows that Donald Trump, as vile as he is — and that is plenty vile — did not collude with Vladimir Putin. Beat him at the ballot box with ideas, if you have any, but stop the ongoing campaign of regime change.

Here is the top from this devastating story. Game. Set. Match.

A story that had circulated during the campaign without much effect resurfaced: it involved the charge that Russian operatives had hacked into the servers of the Democratic National Committee, revealing embarrassing emails that damaged Clinton’s chances. With stunning speed, a new centrist-liberal orthodoxy came into being, enveloping the major media and the bipartisan Washington establishment. This secular religion has attracted hordes of converts in the first year of the Trump presidency. In its capacity to exclude dissent, it is like no other formation of mass opinion in my adult life, though it recalls a few dim childhood memories of anti-communist hysteria during the early 1950s.

The centrepiece of the faith, based on the hacking charge, is the belief that Vladimir Putin orchestrated an attack on American democracy by ordering his minions to interfere in the election on behalf of Trump. The story became gospel with breathtaking suddenness and completeness. Doubters are perceived as heretics and as apologists for Trump and Putin, the evil twins and co-conspirators behind this attack on American democracy. Responsibility for the absence of debate lies in large part with the major media outlets. Their uncritical embrace and endless repetition of the Russian hack story have made it seem a fait accompli in the public mind. It is hard to estimate popular belief in this new orthodoxy, but it does not seem to be merely a creed of Washington insiders. If you question the received narrative in casual conversations, you run the risk of provoking blank stares or overt hostility – even from old friends. This has all been baffling and troubling to me; there have been moments when pop-culture fantasies (body snatchers, Kool-Aid) have come to mind.

Like any orthodoxy worth its salt, the religion of the Russian hack depends not on evidence but on ex cathedra pronouncements on the part of authoritative institutions and their overlords. Its scriptural foundation is a confused and largely fact-free ‘assessment’ produced last January by a small number of ‘hand-picked’ analysts – as James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, described them – from the CIA, the FBI and the NSA. The claims of the last were made with only ‘moderate’ confidence. The label Intelligence Community Assessment creates a misleading impression of unanimity, given that only three of the 16 US intelligence agencies contributed to the report. And indeed the assessment itself contained this crucial admission: ‘Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation and precedents.’ Yet the assessment has passed into the media imagination as if it were unassailable fact, allowing journalists to assume what has yet to be proved. In doing so they serve as mouthpieces for the intelligence agencies, or at least for those ‘hand-picked’ analysts.

It is not the first time the intelligence agencies have played this role. When I hear the Intelligence Community Assessment cited as a reliable source, I always recall the part played by the New York Times in legitimating CIA reports of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s putative weapons of mass destruction, not to mention the long history of disinformation (a.k.a. ‘fake news’) as a tactic for advancing one administration or another’s political agenda. Once again, the established press is legitimating pronouncements made by the Church Fathers of the national security state. Clapper is among the most vigorous of these. He perjured himself before Congress in 2013, when he denied that the NSA had ‘wittingly’ spied on Americans – a lie for which he has never been held to account. In May 2017, he told NBC’s Chuck Todd that the Russians were highly likely to have colluded with Trump’s campaign because they are ‘almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favour, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique’. The current orthodoxy exempts the Church Fathers from standards imposed on ordinary people, and condemns Russians – above all Putin – as uniquely, ‘almost genetically’ diabolical.

And here’s one more particularly interesting section.

Both the DNC hacking story and the one involving the emails of John Podesta, a Clinton campaign operative, involve a shadowy bunch of putatively Russian hackers called Fancy Bear – also known among the technically inclined as APT28. The name Fancy Bear was introduced by Dimitri Alperovitch, the chief technology officer of the cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike. Alperovitch is also a fellow at the Atlantic Council, an anti-Russian Washington think tank hired by the DNC to investigate the theft of their emails. In its report Crowdstrike puts forward close to zero evidence for its claim that those responsible were Russian, let alone for its assertion that they were affiliated with Russian military intelligence. And yet, from this point on, the assumption that this was a Russian cyber operation was unquestioned. When the FBI arrived on the scene, the Bureau either did not request or was refused access to the DNC servers; instead it depended entirely on the Crowdstrike analysis. Crowdstrike, meanwhile, was being forced to retract another claim, that the Russians had successfully hacked the guidance systems of the Ukrainian artillery. The Ukrainian military and the British International Institute for Strategic Studies both contradicted this claim, and Crowdstrike backed down. But its DNC analysis was allowed to stand and even become the basis for the January Intelligence Community Assessment.

To #TheResistance, make sure to turn the lights out on your way out the door.

The Young Turks: Cenk Uygur’s Sexist Past And Current Workplace Issues

Over the past decade, The Young Turks Network has become one of the largest alternative online news outlets in the world, boasting a following of 3.5 million YouTube subscribers. It’s online video channel claims to receive 80 million unique views a month, and it reached 6 billion total views in February 2017–on par with the some of the biggest mainstream media outlets.

Headed by its 47-year-old founder and owner, Cenk Uygur, TYT has broken national news stories and spawned both the political action committee Wolf PAC, which raised around $715,000 in the 2016 election, as well as an organization known as the Justice Democrats, which manages the campaigns for several left wing congressional candidates.

TYT presents itself as a champion of progressive politics. But misogynistic and lewd blog posts from the organization’s early days show a quite different tone.

Uygur launched TYT in 2000 as a blog website and talk show while he was still working at WAMI-TV, a Miami based news station. Although the blog is now defunct, TYT Network still owns the domain, which redirects to the outlet’s main page.

Much of the blog’s content is still accessible via the Internet Archive. It includes sexist views on women in general, references to hitting on teenage girls, and using power in media to manipulate women.

“When is the point when you forget how fun a drunk orgy can be?” Uygur wrote in a 2003 blog post titled “Old People,” complaining about an article which recounted the opinions of an older woman who was critical of Mardi Gras. “I had one of the best nights of my life at Mardi Gras. I kissed over 23 different women, saw and felt countless breasts, and was in a wonderful drunken stupor thanks to my friend John Daniels. It was the best buzz of my existence.”

Sex is a frequent topic in Uygur’s posts.

“It sucks that sex is so complicated,” he wrote in another post from 2000. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could just act on these urges and then just let it go without being uncomfortable? Actually, I have done this a decent amount of times in the past, but women seem to have more problems with this.”

Uygur’s blog profile went futher, promising that the site would “soon showcase such lovely features as pictures of the young virginal interns who work with us on the show.”

Uygur cited his views on women as a reason for entering the media. “So I started telling people how I pick up chicks (or how I don’t), and how I rate women when I first see them (it’s a five tier system based purely on how hot they are), and what I think of current events and all the other crazy things going on in the world,” Uygur noted in a 2000 blog post. “Then, I became a phenomenon. I became the Turk.”

The Young Turks’ have aired dozens of stories around sex and porn to drive viewership in the last few years.

“Obviously, the genes of women are flawed,” Uygur wrote in a 1999 blog post complaining about women in Miami, in which he characterizes them as “semi-pro” prostitutes for not being interested in him because he no longer practiced law. “They are poorly designed creatures who do not want to have sex nearly as often as needed for the human race to get along peaceably and fruitfully.” In a 2001 post titled “Girls Who You Hate, But Really Want To Do,” Uygur discusses how he hates, but would love to have sex with, the fictional lawyer Ally McBeal.

“Yeah, he used his position of power – don’t we all, in some way. I tell girls all the time about my cool job at a TV station in hopes that will trick them into sleeping with me.” Uygur wrote in a 2000 blog post defending an Air Force officer who was reprimanded for fraternization with an enlisted woman.

“I’d have as much sex as possible with prostitutes.  Mind you, I’d have as much sex with non-prostitutes as I could, too,” another post from 2001 reads. “But I’m assuming I’m going to be in no shape to be seducing any fine ladies when I’m on the precipice of suicide.  If you can, though, by all means, go ahead and do that first. But barring the possibility that you’re a manic depressive Don Juan, I’d buy the best sex money could buy – which I’m sure would be damn good. Two girls at once, Asians, blacks, a Venezuelan on top of a Texan prom queen, a secretary on top of a baby-sitter, twins … and their mama.  I’d dress ‘em up; I’d dress ‘em down.  I’d do things to women I hadn’t even imagined before (though I can’t imagine what that would be).”

In 2004, the Young Turks’ co-founder and current producer and senior VP of operations Dave Koller wrote a story on a trip he took with Cenk Uygur:

In one small Pennsylvania town we stopped for gas, and while Cenk filled up I went to talk to these three girls who were walking down the road nearby. Turns out they were three teenage girls, whores in training, literally looking for boys to pick them up. Cenk soon joined me and we discovered these three little spoiled brat bitch young American girls on their way to becoming abused porn actresses or dispensable property in a New York City prostitution ring. The girls live in a small town nearby, and were in this town visiting the grandma of one of them. They were around 14-16 and in a few more years will be pretty damn good looking, but not great.

Later, Koller added:

[W]e missed a turn that we needed, so we had to go back onto a commercial road, and at the first place of business we saw with an Asian name, Cenk turned in, assuming it was a restaurant. Except it wasn’t – it was the other type of Asian establishment, and I don’t mean dry cleaners. I mean massage parlor.  We couldn’t believe it. Of course we went in. We didn’t see the girls, and the price was high and we didn’t have time so we didn’t patronize, but I did squeeze the Madam’s ass on our way out.”

Later in the same piece, Koller describes a visit to a “black part of town”:

We arrived at lunch time and went to the main post office because Cenk needed to do something. The main post office is in the black part of town, and this was one motherfucking cool part of town.  I mean these negros were the real deal. I’m not saying the town was a horrible ghetto. It was, but we’ve all seen worse. I mean these po’ black people just hanging out in the heat – this you don’t see quite like this in the northeast.” Koller continued, “We went to the Civil Rights Museum, which was made in the motel where MLK was assassinated.  As soon as we got out of the car I launched a bottle rocket in the parking lot.

Koller then cites another example during the trip when he and Uygur hit on teenage girls: “Drive through Navajo country to Monument Valley, where the John Wayne films were shot. Cool fucking place. We hit on these two cute French teenagers while their parents were standing right next to them.”

The posts raise questions about the work environment at the Young Turks, and the sexualized content the network airs.

“There is nothing in those posts that seems incongruous with their behavior today,” a former TYT employee told me in an interview. This person characterized the Young Turks’ current work environment as a frat house, saying that male employees would brag about their sexual conquests openly. A former female intern at the Young Turks told me in an interview that she did not experience a frat house environment while working at the network, but was subjected to TYT host Hasan Piker, Cenk Uygur’s nephew, openly describing to employees his sexual experiences.

“In no way did I feel threatened by them, or hear him say anything that could be considered non-consensual,” she said. “I can, however, imagine how it would create an uncomfortable work environment for those around him. On one particular occasion I vividly recall him telling the story of a sexual encounter with a woman who he described as ‘dumb’ and ‘annoying.’ He said that during the encounter he grew bored with her and ‘just wanted to cum and go to sleep.’”

Piker did not respond to a request for comment.

Discussions and defenses of objectifying women continue to appear on the network.

“Cenk’s Old School Rule About Checking Out Women,” is the title of a September 2016 YouTube clip featuring Cenk Uygur, Wes Clark Jr., and Ben Mankiewicz. In the clip, Wes Clark Jr states, “I’m not wealthy at all and I never had a problem scoring pussy in my life.” In a November 2016 Young Turks segment, Uygur defended the Harvard University Soccer team for creating a list rating women at the school by their looks. “Young college guys rated the appearance of young college women; shocking, breaking news alert, totally not guilty in my opinion,” he said in defense of the team, as Uygur bragged about his own rating system of women on his Young Turk site in 2000. In 2009, Cenk hosted a Young Turks segment called, “Cenk’s Top 10 Hottest Girls.” Throughout the segment, Uygur criticized women, models and celebrities, on their looks.

TYT Host Ana Kasparian insisted that the environment at the Young Turks posed no issues and has been supportive throughout her career since she started as an intern.

“TYT and the environment that Cenk fostered has given me the ability to speak my mind fearlessly,” she told me in a statement. “I’ve gotten into heated debates with Cenk on air, and I’ve even openly criticized him off air. Not once has he retaliated or made me feel anything other than a valued voice in the company. He always takes my thoughts and concerns into consideration. I’ve gotten offers to make a lot more money at other media organizations and I’ve turned them down because no other place has supported me and my voice like TYT has.”

Other TYT employees had different experiences, but were pushed to sign non-disparagement agreements to keep their issues at the network from being made public.

“Although I was never in the Los Angeles studio to see the daily treatment of staff from Cenk, there were still troubling signs I dealt with working remotely here in New York,” said Andrew Jerrell Jones, who worked as a reporter for the TYT Network from May 2017 to October 2017, in an interview with me.

Jones refused TYT’s request to sign a non-disparagement agreement as part of his severance from the company, which included a monetary incentive to sign. “I experienced several times Cenk’s apathy toward my real concerns over how dysfunctional, peculiar, and deranged the treatment I received from the man he hired as managing editor, Jonathan Larsen, as my supervisor. When I brought up claims of racial discrimination and requesting to meet with Cenk in person here in New York to talk to him about my major concerns, Cenk didn’t even bother to respond to any of my texts or social media messages, as he flew back to Los Angeles like he didn’t even know I existed.”

Jones plans on filing a lawsuit for racial discrimination and wrongful termination against the company. He added, “Cenk thinks everything is going smoothly with his organization and doesn’t believe there are many internal problems caused by his (and his high-school buddies at the top) leadership, or lack thereof. It is a shame that a supposedly progressive news outlet like The Young Turks sadly has a myriad of the awful practices of the corporate, elite media outlets TYT slams on a daily basis.”

In an interview with the Wrap, Cenk Uygur apologized for the posts, but dismissed them as views he held as a Republican. “The stuff I wrote back then was really insensitive and ignorant,” Uygur said. “If you read that today, what I wrote 18 years ago, and you’re offended by it, you’re 100 percent right. And anyone who is subjected to that material, I apologize to. And I deeply regret having written that stuff when I was a different guy.” Dave Koller refused to comment on his story, but Uygur dismissed it as satire and claimed they never hit on teenage girls as the post says.

The Young Turks: Cenk Uygur's Sexist Past And Current Workplace Issues

Over the past decade, The Young Turks Network has become one of the largest alternative online news outlets in the world, boasting a following of 3.5 million YouTube subscribers. It’s online video channel claims to receive 80 million unique views a month, and it reached 6 billion total views in February 2017–on par with the some of the biggest mainstream media outlets.

Headed by its 47-year-old founder and owner, Cenk Uygur, TYT has broken national news stories and spawned both the political action committee Wolf PAC, which raised around $715,000 in the 2016 election, as well as an organization known as the Justice Democrats, which manages the campaigns for several left wing congressional candidates.

TYT presents itself as a champion of progressive politics. But misogynistic and lewd blog posts from the organization’s early days show a quite different tone.

Uygur launched TYT in 2000 as a blog website and talk show while he was still working at WAMI-TV, a Miami based news station. Although the blog is now defunct, TYT Network still owns the domain, which redirects to the outlet’s main page.

Much of the blog’s content is still accessible via the Internet Archive. It includes sexist views on women in general, references to hitting on teenage girls, and using power in media to manipulate women.

“When is the point when you forget how fun a drunk orgy can be?” Uygur wrote in a 2003 blog post titled “Old People,” complaining about an article which recounted the opinions of an older woman who was critical of Mardi Gras. “I had one of the best nights of my life at Mardi Gras. I kissed over 23 different women, saw and felt countless breasts, and was in a wonderful drunken stupor thanks to my friend John Daniels. It was the best buzz of my existence.”

Sex is a frequent topic in Uygur’s posts.

“It sucks that sex is so complicated,” he wrote in another post from 2000. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could just act on these urges and then just let it go without being uncomfortable? Actually, I have done this a decent amount of times in the past, but women seem to have more problems with this.”

Uygur’s blog profile went futher, promising that the site would “soon showcase such lovely features as pictures of the young virginal interns who work with us on the show.”

Uygur cited his views on women as a reason for entering the media. “So I started telling people how I pick up chicks (or how I don’t), and how I rate women when I first see them (it’s a five tier system based purely on how hot they are), and what I think of current events and all the other crazy things going on in the world,” Uygur noted in a 2000 blog post. “Then, I became a phenomenon. I became the Turk.”

The Young Turks’ have aired dozens of stories around sex and porn to drive viewership in the last few years.

“Obviously, the genes of women are flawed,” Uygur wrote in a 1999 blog post complaining about women in Miami, in which he characterizes them as “semi-pro” prostitutes for not being interested in him because he no longer practiced law. “They are poorly designed creatures who do not want to have sex nearly as often as needed for the human race to get along peaceably and fruitfully.” In a 2001 post titled “Girls Who You Hate, But Really Want To Do,” Uygur discusses how he hates, but would love to have sex with, the fictional lawyer Ally McBeal.

“Yeah, he used his position of power – don’t we all, in some way. I tell girls all the time about my cool job at a TV station in hopes that will trick them into sleeping with me.” Uygur wrote in a 2000 blog post defending an Air Force officer who was reprimanded for fraternization with an enlisted woman.

“I’d have as much sex as possible with prostitutes.  Mind you, I’d have as much sex with non-prostitutes as I could, too,” another post from 2001 reads. “But I’m assuming I’m going to be in no shape to be seducing any fine ladies when I’m on the precipice of suicide.  If you can, though, by all means, go ahead and do that first. But barring the possibility that you’re a manic depressive Don Juan, I’d buy the best sex money could buy – which I’m sure would be damn good. Two girls at once, Asians, blacks, a Venezuelan on top of a Texan prom queen, a secretary on top of a baby-sitter, twins … and their mama.  I’d dress ‘em up; I’d dress ‘em down.  I’d do things to women I hadn’t even imagined before (though I can’t imagine what that would be).”

In 2004, the Young Turks’ co-founder and current producer and senior VP of operations Dave Koller wrote a story on a trip he took with Cenk Uygur:

In one small Pennsylvania town we stopped for gas, and while Cenk filled up I went to talk to these three girls who were walking down the road nearby. Turns out they were three teenage girls, whores in training, literally looking for boys to pick them up. Cenk soon joined me and we discovered these three little spoiled brat bitch young American girls on their way to becoming abused porn actresses or dispensable property in a New York City prostitution ring. The girls live in a small town nearby, and were in this town visiting the grandma of one of them. They were around 14-16 and in a few more years will be pretty damn good looking, but not great.

Later, Koller added:

[W]e missed a turn that we needed, so we had to go back onto a commercial road, and at the first place of business we saw with an Asian name, Cenk turned in, assuming it was a restaurant. Except it wasn’t – it was the other type of Asian establishment, and I don’t mean dry cleaners. I mean massage parlor.  We couldn’t believe it. Of course we went in. We didn’t see the girls, and the price was high and we didn’t have time so we didn’t patronize, but I did squeeze the Madam’s ass on our way out.”

Later in the same piece, Koller describes a visit to a “black part of town”:

We arrived at lunch time and went to the main post office because Cenk needed to do something. The main post office is in the black part of town, and this was one motherfucking cool part of town.  I mean these negros were the real deal. I’m not saying the town was a horrible ghetto. It was, but we’ve all seen worse. I mean these po’ black people just hanging out in the heat – this you don’t see quite like this in the northeast.” Koller continued, “We went to the Civil Rights Museum, which was made in the motel where MLK was assassinated.  As soon as we got out of the car I launched a bottle rocket in the parking lot.

Koller then cites another example during the trip when he and Uygur hit on teenage girls: “Drive through Navajo country to Monument Valley, where the John Wayne films were shot. Cool fucking place. We hit on these two cute French teenagers while their parents were standing right next to them.”

The posts raise questions about the work environment at the Young Turks, and the sexualized content the network airs.

“There is nothing in those posts that seems incongruous with their behavior today,” a former TYT employee told me in an interview. This person characterized the Young Turks’ current work environment as a frat house, saying that male employees would brag about their sexual conquests openly. A former female intern at the Young Turks told me in an interview that she did not experience a frat house environment while working at the network, but was subjected to TYT host Hasan Piker, Cenk Uygur’s nephew, openly describing to employees his sexual experiences.

“In no way did I feel threatened by them, or hear him say anything that could be considered non-consensual,” she said. “I can, however, imagine how it would create an uncomfortable work environment for those around him. On one particular occasion I vividly recall him telling the story of a sexual encounter with a woman who he described as ‘dumb’ and ‘annoying.’ He said that during the encounter he grew bored with her and ‘just wanted to cum and go to sleep.’”

Piker did not respond to a request for comment.

Discussions and defenses of objectifying women continue to appear on the network.

“Cenk’s Old School Rule About Checking Out Women,” is the title of a September 2016 YouTube clip featuring Cenk Uygur, Wes Clark Jr., and Ben Mankiewicz. In the clip, Wes Clark Jr states, “I’m not wealthy at all and I never had a problem scoring pussy in my life.” In a November 2016 Young Turks segment, Uygur defended the Harvard University Soccer team for creating a list rating women at the school by their looks. “Young college guys rated the appearance of young college women; shocking, breaking news alert, totally not guilty in my opinion,” he said in defense of the team, as Uygur bragged about his own rating system of women on his Young Turk site in 2000. In 2009, Cenk hosted a Young Turks segment called, “Cenk’s Top 10 Hottest Girls.” Throughout the segment, Uygur criticized women, models and celebrities, on their looks.

TYT Host Ana Kasparian insisted that the environment at the Young Turks posed no issues and has been supportive throughout her career since she started as an intern.

“TYT and the environment that Cenk fostered has given me the ability to speak my mind fearlessly,” she told me in a statement. “I’ve gotten into heated debates with Cenk on air, and I’ve even openly criticized him off air. Not once has he retaliated or made me feel anything other than a valued voice in the company. He always takes my thoughts and concerns into consideration. I’ve gotten offers to make a lot more money at other media organizations and I’ve turned them down because no other place has supported me and my voice like TYT has.”

Other TYT employees had different experiences, but were pushed to sign non-disparagement agreements to keep their issues at the network from being made public.

“Although I was never in the Los Angeles studio to see the daily treatment of staff from Cenk, there were still troubling signs I dealt with working remotely here in New York,” said Andrew Jerrell Jones, who worked as a reporter for the TYT Network from May 2017 to October 2017, in an interview with me.

Jones refused TYT’s request to sign a non-disparagement agreement as part of his severance from the company, which included a monetary incentive to sign. “I experienced several times Cenk’s apathy toward my real concerns over how dysfunctional, peculiar, and deranged the treatment I received from the man he hired as managing editor, Jonathan Larsen, as my supervisor. When I brought up claims of racial discrimination and requesting to meet with Cenk in person here in New York to talk to him about my major concerns, Cenk didn’t even bother to respond to any of my texts or social media messages, as he flew back to Los Angeles like he didn’t even know I existed.”

Jones plans on filing a lawsuit for racial discrimination and wrongful termination against the company. He added, “Cenk thinks everything is going smoothly with his organization and doesn’t believe there are many internal problems caused by his (and his high-school buddies at the top) leadership, or lack thereof. It is a shame that a supposedly progressive news outlet like The Young Turks sadly has a myriad of the awful practices of the corporate, elite media outlets TYT slams on a daily basis.”

In an interview with the Wrap, Cenk Uygur apologized for the posts, but dismissed them as views he held as a Republican. “The stuff I wrote back then was really insensitive and ignorant,” Uygur said. “If you read that today, what I wrote 18 years ago, and you’re offended by it, you’re 100 percent right. And anyone who is subjected to that material, I apologize to. And I deeply regret having written that stuff when I was a different guy.” Dave Koller refused to comment on his story, but Uygur dismissed it as satire and claimed they never hit on teenage girls as the post says.

How Fake News Helped Planned Parenthood

America’s most popular sexual health care provider received some potentially good news earlier this month.

The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation of Planned Parenthood that might make good on President Trump’s promise to “defund” the organization — meaning defund poor people by prohibiting them from using Medicare to pay Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings, STD tests, and birth control. (Medicare can’t be used for abortions anyway, so the only effect “defunding” has on abortions is to increase them, by restricting access to birth control.)

In a December 7 letter cited by Reuters, the Department of Justice requested unredacted documents from the 2016 Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Planned Parenthood investigation.

That investigation, and the undercover video investigation by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress that prompted it, both failed to prove that Planned Parenthood was ever involved in the illegal transfer of fetal tissue for scientific research — or, as they say on the alt-right, that it was a “chop shop” trafficking in baby parts for profit.

But the failed investigations did succeed in bringing in a ton of money to Planned Parenthood, from patients and other defenders of health freedom.

The huge influx of cash enabled the organization to send out even more fundraising mail than it usually does, and jump to number 29 on Target Marketing’s 2015 list of Top 50 junk-mailers in the United States, moving ahead of such powerhouses as Pottery Barn, Victoria’s Secret and Bank of America.

Then, with the 2016 election of Trump and Pence (who started the “defunding” movement in the first place), fundraising went through the roof. According to Bloomberg, Planned Parenthood received 128,000 donations — thirty times the normal rate — in the week after the election, and reported an 800% increase in applications for volunteers. Within a month of Trump’s inauguration, over 50,000 people had signed up to volunteer for Planned Parenthood, Fast Company reports.

As for the Department of Justice request, in his letter to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote: “At this point, the records are intended for investigative use only — we understand that a resolution from the Senate may be required if the Department were to use any of the unredacted materials in a formal legal proceeding, such as a grand jury.”

So with any luck, another huge financial windfall for Planned Parenthood might well be on the horizon.

A Listicle Of The Worst Things About 2017 We Should Throw In The New Year’s Trash

As I was trimming our Christmas tree (yes, I was multitasking while checking Twitter, dammit!), the thought occurred to me, “Mary, what are the top things you wish we could collectively forget about as we head into 2018?”

It was a difficult year and the ideas quickly started coming. Based on what I learned years ago at Shrine Of The Little Flower in Royal Oak, Michigan, I offer the following prayer list of things I hope are stricken from our great nation, and from my head. FOREVER.

The Clintons. Dear god, how LONG must we put up with Mr. and Mrs. “Two For The Price Of One”? How LONG must we be held hostage by this “power couple” that has held the Democratic Party hostage to their bland, evil centrism? How LONG must we deal with Hillary’s ongoing temper-tantrum about losing last year’s presidential campaign.

#TheResistance. It’s great that people want to get involved in the age of Trump, but Christ, what are these idiots “resisting”? REAL resistance involves more than just screaming “Anything but Trump!” Everyone should read this fine article in The Atlantic by Matt Stoller, “How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul,” to understand what went wrong with the Democratic Party and to see that things haven’t been fine with it for long, long time.

Keith Olbermann of #TheResistance. Please hand me a barf bag.

Neocons. You know, the war criminals WE ALL despised during the George W. Bush years? It’s like a faction of Democrats have goddamn amnesia. People, David Frum and Bill Kristol are not your friends just because they don’t like Donald Trump. The former coined the phrase “Axis of Evil,” in a Bush speech, to put Iraq, Iran and North Korea at the top of the neocon list of countries to invade. Kristol is another permanent war-lover and if given the chance, he’ll be leading the charge — from safely behind his laptop — for the upcoming invasions of Syria, Ukraine and Russia.

David Brock. In a 2014 Slate article, Brock’s “American Bridge” project was described as “the permanent campaign that’s currently trying to save the election for Democrats.” A related project was called “Correct the Record,” which was going to “rebut conservative misinformation” in the press. In reality, the goal of Brock — the former Republican hatchet man and professional liar — was to smear anyone who opposed Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid. Correct the Record, a super PAC, spent millions attacking Hillary’s foes, including creating a n army of online trolls to harass Bernie Sanders supporters. So PLEASE, David Brock, throw yourself atop the ash heap of political history, where you belong.

The Shillaries: Neera Tanden, Tom Watson, and Joy Reid. There’s rarely a day that goes by without one or all of these cretins saying something outlandishly stupid and outrageously false. Take, for example, Reid’s recent “thoughts” about how Sanders allegedly mistreats his wife, Jane. Or when Watson compared a Sanders rally in New York City to a “Hitler Youth” demonstration. The examples of this punching left from these folks is ENDLESS. If Hillary cared so much about the party she claims to love — hahahahaha — she’d tell The Shillaries to STFU.

Daou-ism. Former Clinton advisor Peter Daou is co-founder of the utterly pathetic Hillary Menalong with the aforementioned Watson. Daou also is the brains, as it were, behind Verrit.com, which Jack Shafer of Politico describes as a self-funded “Pro-Hillary Website That Looks Like North Korean Agitprop,” which was founded a few months ago and “endorsed by Hillary to carry on her failed crusade,” only to be greeted with “universal derision.”

Stupid Talking Points.“Bernie Bros” and “Bernie’s not a real Democrat,” and a host of other stupid talking points, are clearly manufactured by pollsters and consultants. It’s old and it’s tired and very few people actually give a fuck about these stupid talking points other than cable TV pundits and related media morons, and Hillary dead-enders. Trash time.

#Resistance idiots Eric Garland, Louise Mensch, Claude Taylor, et al. Look, I understand that it’s a shock to have a reality-star gangster in the White House and despise the situation EVERY DAY. But for fuck’s sake, no amount of “Twitter investigations” into whatever Russia did or didn’t do regarding the election is going to “crack the case,” you fucking #Resistance boneheads. All that these deranged #Resistance heroes are accomplishing is EXPLOITING people’s emotions, pain and fear.

On a fun side note, remember when Queen Russia Grifter Louise Mensch literally had a faction of Democrats cheering on an Orrin Hatch presidency? Christ,  I can’t even remember the loopy scenario Mensch was peddling that led from Trump to Mike Pence to Paul Ryan to Hatch, but there were people desperate and dumb enough to swallow it. Orrin Hatch, for god’s sake. As recently reported by NBC NEWS, this shit bird helped add late provisions to the GOP’s disgusting tax bill that could extend significant tax breaks to real estate companies, among others. Just who we need in the White House.

Down the Hatch, nice and easy.

So, there you go. Happy holidays, everyone! I’m THRILLED to leave 2017 behind, and look for my upcoming piece where I’ll outline what I am looking forward to in 2018.

I’ll end this with some gratitude: thank you to my wonderful husband — really, can you *imagine* dealing with me day after goddamn day? — to our two amazing children, my wonderful friends, my colleagues on the Luscious Ladies podcast I co-host and of course, to Ken Silverstein, the editor-in-chief of this fabulous publication.

A Listicle Of The Worst Things About 2017 We Should Throw In The New Year's Trash

As I was trimming our Christmas tree (yes, I was multitasking while checking Twitter, dammit!), the thought occurred to me, “Mary, what are the top things you wish we could collectively forget about as we head into 2018?”

It was a difficult year and the ideas quickly started coming. Based on what I learned years ago at Shrine Of The Little Flower in Royal Oak, Michigan, I offer the following prayer list of things I hope are stricken from our great nation, and from my head. FOREVER.

The Clintons. Dear god, how LONG must we put up with Mr. and Mrs. “Two For The Price Of One”? How LONG must we be held hostage by this “power couple” that has held the Democratic Party hostage to their bland, evil centrism? How LONG must we deal with Hillary’s ongoing temper-tantrum about losing last year’s presidential campaign.

#TheResistance. It’s great that people want to get involved in the age of Trump, but Christ, what are these idiots “resisting”? REAL resistance involves more than just screaming “Anything but Trump!” Everyone should read this fine article in The Atlantic by Matt Stoller, “How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul,” to understand what went wrong with the Democratic Party and to see that things haven’t been fine with it for long, long time.

Keith Olbermann of #TheResistance. Please hand me a barf bag.

Neocons. You know, the war criminals WE ALL despised during the George W. Bush years? It’s like a faction of Democrats have goddamn amnesia. People, David Frum and Bill Kristol are not your friends just because they don’t like Donald Trump. The former coined the phrase “Axis of Evil,” in a Bush speech, to put Iraq, Iran and North Korea at the top of the neocon list of countries to invade. Kristol is another permanent war-lover and if given the chance, he’ll be leading the charge — from safely behind his laptop — for the upcoming invasions of Syria, Ukraine and Russia.

David Brock. In a 2014 Slate article, Brock’s “American Bridge” project was described as “the permanent campaign that’s currently trying to save the election for Democrats.” A related project was called “Correct the Record,” which was going to “rebut conservative misinformation” in the press. In reality, the goal of Brock — the former Republican hatchet man and professional liar — was to smear anyone who opposed Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid. Correct the Record, a super PAC, spent millions attacking Hillary’s foes, including creating a n army of online trolls to harass Bernie Sanders supporters. So PLEASE, David Brock, throw yourself atop the ash heap of political history, where you belong.

The Shillaries: Neera Tanden, Tom Watson, and Joy Reid. There’s rarely a day that goes by without one or all of these cretins saying something outlandishly stupid and outrageously false. Take, for example, Reid’s recent “thoughts” about how Sanders allegedly mistreats his wife, Jane. Or when Watson compared a Sanders rally in New York City to a “Hitler Youth” demonstration. The examples of this punching left from these folks is ENDLESS. If Hillary cared so much about the party she claims to love — hahahahaha — she’d tell The Shillaries to STFU.

Daou-ism. Former Clinton advisor Peter Daou is co-founder of the utterly pathetic Hillary Menalong with the aforementioned Watson. Daou also is the brains, as it were, behind Verrit.com, which Jack Shafer of Politico describes as a self-funded “Pro-Hillary Website That Looks Like North Korean Agitprop,” which was founded a few months ago and “endorsed by Hillary to carry on her failed crusade,” only to be greeted with “universal derision.”

Stupid Talking Points.“Bernie Bros” and “Bernie’s not a real Democrat,” and a host of other stupid talking points, are clearly manufactured by pollsters and consultants. It’s old and it’s tired and very few people actually give a fuck about these stupid talking points other than cable TV pundits and related media morons, and Hillary dead-enders. Trash time.

#Resistance idiots Eric Garland, Louise Mensch, Claude Taylor, et al. Look, I understand that it’s a shock to have a reality-star gangster in the White House and despise the situation EVERY DAY. But for fuck’s sake, no amount of “Twitter investigations” into whatever Russia did or didn’t do regarding the election is going to “crack the case,” you fucking #Resistance boneheads. All that these deranged #Resistance heroes are accomplishing is EXPLOITING people’s emotions, pain and fear.

On a fun side note, remember when Queen Russia Grifter Louise Mensch literally had a faction of Democrats cheering on an Orrin Hatch presidency? Christ,  I can’t even remember the loopy scenario Mensch was peddling that led from Trump to Mike Pence to Paul Ryan to Hatch, but there were people desperate and dumb enough to swallow it. Orrin Hatch, for god’s sake. As recently reported by NBC NEWS, this shit bird helped add late provisions to the GOP’s disgusting tax bill that could extend significant tax breaks to real estate companies, among others. Just who we need in the White House.

Down the Hatch, nice and easy.

So, there you go. Happy holidays, everyone! I’m THRILLED to leave 2017 behind, and look for my upcoming piece where I’ll outline what I am looking forward to in 2018.

I’ll end this with some gratitude: thank you to my wonderful husband — really, can you *imagine* dealing with me day after goddamn day? — to our two amazing children, my wonderful friends, my colleagues on the Luscious Ladies podcast I co-host and of course, to Ken Silverstein, the editor-in-chief of this fabulous publication.

Meet Molly McKew, War Lobbyist and Hero of #TheResistance

If you follow me on Twitter, you already know my position on Neo-McCarthyism. I don’t like it. Furthermore, the idea that Russia is to blame for everything, in particular the lousy state of American democracy, is sheer nonsense and obscures real problems we need to address.

So naturally I from time to time call out perverse and hysterical forms of Russophobia, and especially when the source is a lobbyist. I recently had in my cross hairs the neoconservative Molly McKew, whose voice is currently being amplified by a lot of liberals because they find that her deranged — and, it turns out, purchased — hot takes on Russia are pleasing to the ear as they cluelessly try to figure out why Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump.

Prior to becoming a lobbyist, McKew headed the foreign and defense policy studies program at the American Enterprise Institute, the neocon think tank that was one of the main architects of the Iraq War. AEI is a strong promoter of “democracy” abroad, anti-Communist (with all the sophistication of Invasion of the Body Snatchers), and, not un-relatedly, ardent in protecting American corporate interests by any means necessary, including war. During the Iraq War, McKew oversaw AEI’s public outreach and continued to pump out propaganda during the catastrophic occupation and “reconstruction.”

Molly has had quite the stellar career as a consultant and PR hack. In 2007 she worked at KLR international, where she pushed through more than $1 million in Pentagon cash for the Iraq Memory Foundation.

Now, I generally support the arts and humanities, but the Iraq Memory Foundation was essentially a U.S.-funded front that helped promote the 2003 invasion and was later accused — by Saad Eskander, director of the Iraq National Library and Archives, among others — of looting documents that ended up in the hands of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

McKew went to work at the Podesta Group in 2010, where her clients included the biotech giant Genzyme. She currently heads her own firm, Fianna Strategies, where she lobbies for a number of foreign governments.

McKew has placed “articles” in Politico, Foreign Policy, Al Jazeera, NPR and Washington Free Beacon, in which she crafts clients’ messages to their target audience. Lobbyists routinely plant stories as part of their campaigns, and one can only wonder why “news” organizations publish their claptrap without fully disclosing the authors’ clear conflicts of interest.

One of my favorite examples of McKew’s unsubstantiated Russia hysteria surrounds the “Gerasimov Doctrine.” Last October, she penned a barely lucid piece in Politico that posited that this allegedly all-important doctrine by Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of Russia’s equivalent of the Joint Chiefs, was driving the country’s current policy and that it was “considered by many to be the most useful articulation of Russia’s modern strategy.”

Of course, she never identified any of the “many”; we’re simply to believe that there is a collective consensus of experts on this issue, when there is none. A superficial online search for this allegedly super-important doctrine returns pages and pages of bizarre Kremlin conspiracy-mongering, but no one of note citing it.

In the piece, McKew writes, “Gerasimov took tactics developed by the Soviets, blended them with strategic military thinking about total war, and laid out a new theory of modern warfare — one that looks more like hacking an enemy’s society than attacking it head-on.”

Reality check. This “doctrine” is apparently based on a short and straightforward article that appeared in a military magazine, and that could easily have been written by an American general discussing the realities of modern warfare. The tactics cited weren’t developed by the Soviets, and indeed the U.S.  government makes liberal use of them. Moreover, many items McKew cites in her article refer to General Gerasimov ruminating on how the West, not Russia, conducts itself. He specifically references Libya and regime change efforts connected to the so-called “Arab Spring.” 

I’m linking to the entire article here so that you can decide for yourself. But the claim that this is a Soviet military strategy doctrine is pretty farfetched in my opinion. 

So McKew is what I refer to as The War Lobbyist. Earlier this year, she declared in another unhinged Politico piece that “fighting a new Cold War would be in America’s best interest.” That’s an astonishing claim on its face and highly controversial, to put it mildly. She further argues that ISIS’s emergence is, as usual, all Russia’s fault, while ignoring the U.S. invasion of Iraq as a key contributing factor.

She goes on to add that the U.S. must confront Vladimir Putin or he’ll invade Georgia again. Never mind that Putin acted after Georgia first invaded the Russian protectorate of Ossetia and that the U.N. deployed peacekeepers there at the request of inhabitants.

That’s not to say that Russia is entirely innocent, but the situation is more complicated than McKew admits. Moreover, the notion that Russia is anything more than a waning global power with a weak economy and highly dependent on natural resource extraction is ludicrous. As a nation, the U.S. faces far larger problems and threats.

So what does McKew have to gain with her paranoid scaremongering? Quite a bit, it turns out. 

She was registered as a foreign agent lobbying for the National Security Council and presidency of Georgia between 2008 and 2013, during the authoritarian, corrupt regime of the neocons’ beloved Mikheil Saakashvili. She remained on the payroll of his United National Movement party until early this year.

In 2014, McKew registered to lobby for the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova, which was founded by Vlad Filat, a businessman caught up in a huge 2015 banking scandal when he was prime minister. Suffice it to say, Filat’s party is not pro-Russian. In an October 2015 story, McKew told BuzzFeed that she was run out of Moldova by the pro-Russian opposition because of her work as a lobbyist for Filat. However, there’s no way of evaluating the story because it was written by neocon reporter Rosie Gray, now with The Atlantic

I’ve often argued that neoliberals and neoconservatives are essentially two sides of the same coin, especially when it comes to foreign policy. Neoliberals are not liberal, and neoconservatives are not conservative; both are elitists that serve empire and seek  control of natural resources for the United States, and wars are fought for that reason, if not in that name. That’s why I call the whole bunch of them “Neoists.” 

This is all pretty obvious, but if you need more evidence, consider the number of Bush-era neoconservatives — i.e., the Twin Towers of Terror Robert Kagan, a self-described “liberal interventionist,” and John Negroponte, a Reagan and Bush Jr. administration veteran — who rallied around Hillary Clinton. They didn’t hate Trump for any principled reason, of which there were plenty, but merely because he rhetorically opposed neocon calls for wars on five of the seven continents. 

Which brings us to McKew’s Twitter feed, which reads like an endless screed out of the HUAC, or House Committee on Un-American Activities.

Let’s superficially dissect this bizarre claim and its two underlying premises. The first is that green causes are inherently bad because Russia, a petro state, is said to be for them. The second is that Native Americans fighting for clean water on their land at Standing Rock are part of a greater Russian PSYOPS effort aimed at undermining American democracy and interests.

Neither of these positions is remotely tenable. Environmental causes are always good, no matter who’s behind them, and we all benefit from them. [Editor’s note: I don’t like the outdoors, especially if the temperature is below 75 degrees Fahrenheit, but I generally share this perspective.] Her second claim is just plain stupid. Russia’s economy is largely driven by natural resource extraction and oil, and it has no inherent interest in promoting green causes.

So, if you’re Molly McKew, a lobbyist for a neocon agenda and anti-Russian foreign nations, what’s your game? Do you care if the Democratic Party keeps losing elections, or do you favor cuts to the military budget? Clearly not.  

Maybe you’re just a greedy grifter out to land more shitty, bloodsucking foreign clients. On the other hand, maybe in your Twitter feed we’re just seeing one more example of Noam Chomsky and Ed Herman’s theory about the manufacture of consent.

Either way, we all need to know that lobbyists like McKew, with their ability to twist the media and politicians, are central players in our ongoing and accelerating decline. And she’s no isolated example. There are countless more like her who take money to promote positions that hurt average Americans and benefit the military-industrial complex.

If environmental warriors and their causes need to be undermined, that’s just fine for Molly, as long as she’s making piles of greenbacks.

 

BOMBSHELL: At Least Thirty More Members Of Congress Implicated In Sexual Harassment Charges; Resignations Coming

Here’s a bombshell that’s going to rock Washington, and the country: There are at least another 30 members of congress implicated in sexual harassment scandals, and about twenty are likely to resign after January 1st.

The Washington Post has the names of the implicated members and is working on a story now. Other newspapers and media outlets are working on related stories, but apparently only the Post has the full list.

The newspaper likely obtained it from one or both House leaders, Republican Paul Ryan and Democrat Nancy Pelosi. These two widely loathed figures are apparently seeking to crash manage the looming PR catastrophe for congress, whose job approval rating is already in the low-teens.

I discussed this bombshell with Tom Anderson, a Friend of Washington Babylon and occasional contributor, on our site’s podcast. It was recorded last night and will post later today, and you’re definitely going to want to listen to all of it.

We don’t have the list of names or a partisan breakdown of the sleazy members who are about to be outed, but we’re talking about roughly 7.5 percent of congress.

What’s particularly disgusting about this is that members of congress have been using taxpayer money from the Congressional Office of Compliance to pay off their victims. Then they use campaign money or other political funds to pay for their legal defense. (The Office of Compliance, whose affairs are secret, has doled out nearly $20 million in settlement claims over the past two decades, with much of it being used to cover up sexual-harassment claims against unnamed members of Congress.)

As Tom noted during our conversation, this is an incentive to further misconduct and criminality. To use an analogy, the “common” person who gets ticketed and fined for speeding through a school zone slows down next time they drive through it. Under the current revolting political arrangements, members of congress speeding through a school zone probably don’t get ticketed and if they do, the fine gets paid with public money.

Why slow down? Next time they’re likely to tear through the school zone faster and maybe kill a few kids. But, hey, no problem!

One person who is likely on the list of 30 (or more, god willing) is New York Democrat Gregory Meeks. The New York Post recently reported that this long-time bucket of sleaze tapped the Congressional Office of Compliance to settle “a lawsuit brought by a female staffer who said that he fired her after she sued one of his donors for sexual harassment, according to court papers.”

Here’s an excerpt:

In March 2006, the fund paid an undisclosed settlement in a lawsuit brought by Andrea Payne, a congressional aide in Meeks’ office from 1998 to 2000.

Payne had filed a separate lawsuit against Flowers Physical Therapy, a clinic run by Joan and Neville Flowers in Queens, alleging that a massage therapist in their office had sexually abused her. The couple are longtime campaign donors and fundraisers for the Congressman.

After she filed the lawsuit in May 2000, Payne said that she was forced to work overtime without compensation and was not reimbursed for work-related expenses, court papers say. She was also subjected to “verbally abusive language” in the Congressman’s district office, according to court filings.

Meeks fired Payne in October 2000. The Congressman later said that she had resigned, making it impossible for Payne to collect unemployment benefits from New York State, court papers say.

Payne, who complained to the Congressional Office of Compliance, sued Meeks in federal court in 2001, and the case was settled five years later.

Meeks will probably not have to resign because he runs his district like a feudal lord with unchecked power. Only public outrage might force this dirtbag out of office.

Meanwhile, look for the Post‘s upcoming story, but remember, you read it here first.

Miscellanea: Marco Rubio, NYT’s 2020 Pick; Tom Friedman, Saudi Pet; Tom Brady, Diet and Football Fraud

1/ The New York Time‘s moronic characterization of Florida Senator Marco Rubio as a “longtime champion of the working class,” has already been widely and deservedly mocked. In addition to showing just how shitty the Times has become over the past few years, it also demonstrates that Rubio will be the establishment’s GOP pick for 2020, just as he was in 2016.

The mention came in a piece about the tax bill and notes that sleazy little Marco — who I will gratuitously mention here once helped his cocaine-dealing brother-in-law get a real estate license — had “tried in vain to secure a more generous tax break for lower-income Americans as Congress embarked on a sweeping rewrite of the federal tax code”:

With the hours winding down on a final version of the bill and a frantic push to pass it along party lines in a narrowly-divided Senate, Mr. Rubio took a stand: He threatened to vote no unless House and Senate negotiators expanded the child tax credit.

It was a dramatic moment, as those on Capitol Hill and beyond wondered if Mr. Rubio was grandstanding, bluffing or both. But for Mr. Rubio, it was a natural extension of the promise he believes the Republican Party had made, and was in danger of abandoning, to look out for the little guy.

“If you look at all the benefits that are flowing,” particularly to multinational corporations, Mr. Rubio said in a telephone interview, “it was important to be able to go back and do more for working families.”

How touching. But if you do a Google search for Marco Rubio and working class champion, you won’t find much evidence to back up the Times‘s characterization. What you will find — plus people howling in laughter and outage at the newspaper’s stupidity — is a very good piece by the Miami New Times headlined, “Rubio’s Big Tax ‘Win Today Gives Poor, Single Parents an Extra $75 Total”:

Local snail-person and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio surfaced yesterday and briefly set Washington, D.C., ablaze by saying he wouldn’t vote for the much-maligned Republican tax-cut package unless it did more for working families.

Virtually no sane person believed that Rubio, a master political schemer who never makes a decision without knowing in advance how it will benefit him, would actually wind up voting no. And today he got his wish in the form of a modest increase in the so-called Child Tax-Credit program, which gives money back to parents based on how many kids they have..

Single parents making $14,000 per year get a total of $75 back in credits. Thanks, Marco! That won’t even score those kids two pairs of Vans sneakers. They’ll have to pass around the shoes when they want to go to Dairy Queen.

The New York Times. Now officially insane.

(I also highly recommend this New Times article, “Here Are the Dumbest Things Marco Rubio Did in 2017.” Marco 2020!

2/ Speaking of the shitty New York Times, I recently noted the appalling work of its chief op-ed meathead, Thomas Friedman, on his recent travel to Saudi Arabia. He wrote in one column:

I never thought I’d live long enough to write this sentence: The most significant reform process underway anywhere in the Middle East today is in Saudi Arabia. Yes, you read that right. Though I came here at the start of Saudi winter, I found the country going through its own Arab Spring, Saudi style.

Unlike the other Arab Springs — all of which emerged bottom up and failed miserably, except in Tunisia — this one is led from the top down by the country’s 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and, if it succeeds, it will not only change the character of Saudi Arabia but the tone and tenor of Islam across the globe. Only a fool would predict its success — but only a fool would not root for it.

The crown prince — “known as “M.B.S.”, Friedman noted, probably without even realizing those were his initials — had launched an alleged crackdown on corruption. This crackdown, to anyone smarter than a chimpanzee, was nothing more than the crown prince summarily arresting a few Saudi officials on charges of corruption in order to impress the New York Times and the rest of the global media.

So it was kind of embarrassing over the weekend when Friedman’s own newspaper reported that, in the words of a France 24 headline, “Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption prince buys $300 million French chateau.” That would make it the world’s most expensive home, which Friedman’s beloved MBS bought through offshore shell companies to obscure his ownership.

Dipshit.

I guess the dogged reporter Friedman overlooked a few things. Didn’t his Saudi Uber driver tell him about this sort of thing on way to the Riyadh Ritz Carlton?

3/ I love football but I may have to stop watching after yesterday’s robbery by the referees of the Pittsburgh Steelers victory over the New England Deflatriots. Ninety-nine percent of the country knows the Steelers were cheated; only Patriots fans defend the call and frankly I don’t know at this point what pleasure they can take in consistently winning games due to referee intervention.

Not a touchdown. Right.

Give me a break, Patriots fans. If Tom Brady had thrown that ball to Rob Gronkowski in New England, the refs call it a touchdown 100 percent of the time — and rightly so. And if they dared overturn it, it would provoke a White Riot on the part of your shitty team’s racist fan base.

Anyway, fuck football and the NFL. I urge everyone to read Washington Babylon‘s three-part series on Brady’s diet and training fraud, TB12, which I urge all Patriot fans to sign up for. The series’s author, David Bonner, emailed me yesterday with this:

Here’s the latest from the TB12 Method e-newsletter. I know you’ll want to try some of Tom’s mouth-watering vegan recipes!

“In the TB12 Method app, you will learn from Tom, Alex and our body coaches about all 5 pillars of the TB12 Method: pliability, workouts, hydration, nutrition, and cognitive training. The app also generates personalized pliability and workout programs and includes a library of delicious TB12 recipes.”

 

Miscellanea: Marco Rubio, NYT's 2020 Pick; Tom Friedman, Saudi Pet; Tom Brady, Diet and Football Fraud

1/ The New York Time‘s moronic characterization of Florida Senator Marco Rubio as a “longtime champion of the working class,” has already been widely and deservedly mocked. In addition to showing just how shitty the Times has become over the past few years, it also demonstrates that Rubio will be the establishment’s GOP pick for 2020, just as he was in 2016.

The mention came in a piece about the tax bill and notes that sleazy little Marco — who I will gratuitously mention here once helped his cocaine-dealing brother-in-law get a real estate license — had “tried in vain to secure a more generous tax break for lower-income Americans as Congress embarked on a sweeping rewrite of the federal tax code”:

With the hours winding down on a final version of the bill and a frantic push to pass it along party lines in a narrowly-divided Senate, Mr. Rubio took a stand: He threatened to vote no unless House and Senate negotiators expanded the child tax credit.

It was a dramatic moment, as those on Capitol Hill and beyond wondered if Mr. Rubio was grandstanding, bluffing or both. But for Mr. Rubio, it was a natural extension of the promise he believes the Republican Party had made, and was in danger of abandoning, to look out for the little guy.

“If you look at all the benefits that are flowing,” particularly to multinational corporations, Mr. Rubio said in a telephone interview, “it was important to be able to go back and do more for working families.”

How touching. But if you do a Google search for Marco Rubio and working class champion, you won’t find much evidence to back up the Times‘s characterization. What you will find — plus people howling in laughter and outage at the newspaper’s stupidity — is a very good piece by the Miami New Times headlined, “Rubio’s Big Tax ‘Win Today Gives Poor, Single Parents an Extra $75 Total”:

Local snail-person and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio surfaced yesterday and briefly set Washington, D.C., ablaze by saying he wouldn’t vote for the much-maligned Republican tax-cut package unless it did more for working families.

Virtually no sane person believed that Rubio, a master political schemer who never makes a decision without knowing in advance how it will benefit him, would actually wind up voting no. And today he got his wish in the form of a modest increase in the so-called Child Tax-Credit program, which gives money back to parents based on how many kids they have..

Single parents making $14,000 per year get a total of $75 back in credits. Thanks, Marco! That won’t even score those kids two pairs of Vans sneakers. They’ll have to pass around the shoes when they want to go to Dairy Queen.

The New York Times. Now officially insane.

(I also highly recommend this New Times article, “Here Are the Dumbest Things Marco Rubio Did in 2017.” Marco 2020!

2/ Speaking of the shitty New York Times, I recently noted the appalling work of its chief op-ed meathead, Thomas Friedman, on his recent travel to Saudi Arabia. He wrote in one column:

I never thought I’d live long enough to write this sentence: The most significant reform process underway anywhere in the Middle East today is in Saudi Arabia. Yes, you read that right. Though I came here at the start of Saudi winter, I found the country going through its own Arab Spring, Saudi style.

Unlike the other Arab Springs — all of which emerged bottom up and failed miserably, except in Tunisia — this one is led from the top down by the country’s 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and, if it succeeds, it will not only change the character of Saudi Arabia but the tone and tenor of Islam across the globe. Only a fool would predict its success — but only a fool would not root for it.

The crown prince — “known as “M.B.S.”, Friedman noted, probably without even realizing those were his initials — had launched an alleged crackdown on corruption. This crackdown, to anyone smarter than a chimpanzee, was nothing more than the crown prince summarily arresting a few Saudi officials on charges of corruption in order to impress the New York Times and the rest of the global media.

So it was kind of embarrassing over the weekend when Friedman’s own newspaper reported that, in the words of a France 24 headline, “Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption prince buys $300 million French chateau.” That would make it the world’s most expensive home, which Friedman’s beloved MBS bought through offshore shell companies to obscure his ownership.

Dipshit.

I guess the dogged reporter Friedman overlooked a few things. Didn’t his Saudi Uber driver tell him about this sort of thing on way to the Riyadh Ritz Carlton?

3/ I love football but I may have to stop watching after yesterday’s robbery by the referees of the Pittsburgh Steelers victory over the New England Deflatriots. Ninety-nine percent of the country knows the Steelers were cheated; only Patriots fans defend the call and frankly I don’t know at this point what pleasure they can take in consistently winning games due to referee intervention.

Not a touchdown. Right.

Give me a break, Patriots fans. If Tom Brady had thrown that ball to Rob Gronkowski in New England, the refs call it a touchdown 100 percent of the time — and rightly so. And if they dared overturn it, it would provoke a White Riot on the part of your shitty team’s racist fan base.

Anyway, fuck football and the NFL. I urge everyone to read Washington Babylon‘s three-part series on Brady’s diet and training fraud, TB12, which I urge all Patriot fans to sign up for. The series’s author, David Bonner, emailed me yesterday with this:

Here’s the latest from the TB12 Method e-newsletter. I know you’ll want to try some of Tom’s mouth-watering vegan recipes!

“In the TB12 Method app, you will learn from Tom, Alex and our body coaches about all 5 pillars of the TB12 Method: pliability, workouts, hydration, nutrition, and cognitive training. The app also generates personalized pliability and workout programs and includes a library of delicious TB12 recipes.”

 

How ‘The Intercept’ Got Played by the Military-Industrial Complex, Part II

I posted a story last week that showed how The Intercept was taken for a ride by the National Security Council (NSC) and National Security Agency (NSA), and used to plant a story attacking private contractors. The Intercept‘s story was co-bylined by Jeremy Scahill and Matthew Cole, the former ABC News reporter who has the distinction of putting not one but two whistleblowers — John Kiriakou and more recently Reality Winner — behind bars.

The story got some push back, probably because people seemed to think I was supporting private contractors and Erik Prince, who founded the company Blackwater. He was allegedly involved in a contractor project “to set up a large intelligence network and run counterterrorist propaganda efforts,” according to BuzzFeed, which ran a story that complemented The Intercept‘s piece.

Well, I stand by my story. Both outlets got played. And to be clear, I’ve criticized private military contracting for twenty years and am no fan, to put it mildly, of Erik Prince.

I detailed in my original piece how The Intercept employed surveillance, blackmail and other sleazy tactics routinely used by intelligence agencies in reporting its story. But the main point was that The Intercept‘s story was fundamentally flawed and its key assertions were inaccurate.

Matthew Cole. Note to confidential sources who talk to him: Prison food sucks.

I have a raft of new information below that further decimates Scahill and Cole’s fanciful tale, whose chief beneficiaries were Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and other private contractors that are already making billions of dollars on the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those contractors — and the national security agencies that spoon fed the story to Scahill and Cole — are surely laughing at The Intercept, all the way to the bank.

Here’s The Intercept‘s lede:

The Trump administration is considering a set of proposals developed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a retired CIA officer — with assistance from Oliver North, a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal — to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials and others familiar with the proposals. The sources say the plans have been pitched to the White House as a means of countering “deep state” enemies in the intelligence community seeking to undermine Donald Trump’s presidency. The creation of such a program raises the possibility that the effort would be used to create an intelligence apparatus to justify the Trump administration’s political agenda.

Parts of the story were true — The Intercept was hand-delivered contracts by national security sources who are seeking to kill the proposals, developed by a company named Amyntor — but its entire premise was false. The Amyntor program they are discussing is not illegal or “black”; it’s being reviewed through legal and authorized oversight channels, and would be an official, non-black government program run by intelligence agencies. “The Intercept may not like the proposed program, but it is not illegal,” I wrote in my first piece.

The story was pushed, directly or indirectly, to The Intercept and other publications by Michael Anton, the far-right lunatic and spokesman for the NSC whom I recently wrote about here. This is ironic because in a story earlier this year The Intercept disparaged Anton, accurately, as being “obsessed” with nuclear apocalypse.

Michael Anton: Twiddled Scahill and Cole like Yo-Yos.

Several sleazy NSA veterans who work on the Trump NSC, including Rob Joyce, had a hand in this media operation as well. Some media outlets who got the same information, including the normally credulous Washington Post, declined to publish stories because they realized they were being played.

Jeff Morley, a friend and longtime Washington journalist, wrote me a letter criticizing my story:

So let’s talk about your criticism of Scahill and Cole’s piece in The Intercept. I don’t see much dispute about some of the facts of the matter. The Intercept reported that working collaborators of Erik Prince have put forward a proposal in which a private security firm Amyntor, would undertake intelligence tasks for the CIA including counterterrorism, rendition, and propaganda.

It seems to me your difference is less about facts than about the interpretation of the proposal. This is hard to assess because the words “illegal” and “black” do not appear in the Intercept piece. Are you saying the Amyntor proposal was for non-classified work? Is that what the proposal says?  This is an important factual point, and I don’t have the proposal.

So here’s my AlterNet piece on the subject. I didn’t use any facts of the national security state. I don’t see any factual errors. I don’t think I’m in love with the CIA, NSA and NSC. I wasn’t used by them. Is this a story not worth reporting?

To which I would say, yes, it is worth reporting, but, as always, with skepticism, without being used, and getting the facts right. Let me go through some of the criticism I have received and rebut it, and I’ll destroy The Intercept‘s embarrassingly wrong story along the way.

Morley writes, “the words ‘illegal’ and ‘black’ do not appear in The Intercept piece.” Fine, but the story’s language suggested strongly that this was an illegal program, referring to “a global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies,” and quoting a former intelligence official saying, “It is a direct-action arm, totally off the books.”

Morley’s own story also suggested this was a black, illegal program in its headline: “The Last Thing America Needs Is Trump Armed with His Own Private CIA; Oliver North and the recurring presidential dream of running secret operations ‘off the books’.”

This is simply false. The Amyntor program, good or bad, was legal and entirely “on the books.” It would be run by the CIA, covered by congressional oversight and the president would run it. You can say that the CIA is evil and Donald Trump is an idiot all you want, but the program was not “off the books.”

Furthermore, Erik Prince and Oliver North have nothing to do with Amyntor’s program, other than knowing some of the company officials. They are not part of the Amyntor team and didn’t stand to gain from its proposal. (Buzzfeed‘s less sensational story cited a source who said that while “Prince is close to some Amyntor officials, he has nothing to do with” its proposals.)

Prince has been promoting a plan — which is sharply criticized by one of his former employee’s here — that would “replace U.S. troops in Afghanistan with mercenaries, preferably his.” That plan might be a a terrible one — more below — but it’s not the same thing as the Amyntor plan. But Scahill has been milking Blackwater and Prince for ages — though brave Cap’n Jerkoff has never mustered the courage to call Prince — so he tossed in his name and North’s because they’re red meat to the large knee-jerk lefty component of his audience.

The Intercept story was planted by the National Security Council to benefit major private defense contractors with which it is allied — the ones already feeding at the bloody trough of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — and who don’t want Amyntor or other small-fry companies moving in on their turf. In short, this was the military-industrial complex making use of naive — at best — reporters to promote its dishonest but profitable narrative.

Look, I’m not endorsing the Amyntor plan, and I don’t know enough about it to evaluate it fully, but it’s certainly no loopier than the Pentagon’s failed policies of the past 16 years. You say you don’t like private contractors? They’re already running our overseas wars, they’re just doing it very, very badly.

The separate plan Prince has been promoting — on TV, which suggests it’s not top secret — would greatly reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and replace them with a much smaller number of contractors, and with more help from Afghanistan’s national security forces.

Would it work? I seriously doubt it; I don’t think anything can salvage our Afghanistan misadventure, and we should have pulled out long ago. Should any firm owned by Prince get such a contract? Probably not, given his horrendous track record.

But should the United States be looking at reducing the number of troops deployed abroad and rethinking the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? Absolutely, and so Prince’s plan should be rationally looked at, even if it — and he — is rejected.

My view is that nation-building never works, that it is designed to benefit the “nation-builder,” and that Afghanistan and Iraq are far worse off as a result of the respective U.S.-led invasions, occupations and “reconstructions.” The worst tragedy is for Iraqis and Afghans, but there are also a huge number of American 22-year-olds who have been killed and wounded since 9/11, and taxpayers have paid out countless billions to foot the bill.

The war in Afghanistan is the longest in our history, and there has been a staggering loss of blood and treasure — in a losing effort. Meanwhile, the default position of the powerful national security establishment remains that any time there is a problem abroad, call the Pentagon, send in troops and bombs away.

This is terrible for the country, and the world, but it’s great for the bloated military-industrial complex. Northrop Grumman, Boeing and Lockheed Martin all have lucrative war-related Indefinite Duration, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts. It’s like an ATM machine that just keeps giving out money, and the contractors and their Pentagon allies will seek to destroy any new company that tries to get a piece of the action — which led to the Intercept story.

Giant defense contractors currently fly gasoline from the United States to Afghanistan, at a cost to taxpayers of up to $400 a gallon. If the media did its job and reported such stories, there would be pitchforks out.

Here’s another unreported story of note:

Last November 6, two days before the election, the Pentagon parked $500 million in a Northrop Grumman bank account. The money was never used for its original purpose — and it’s not clear where it went — but Northrop Grumman took a 20 percent handling fee. Loan sharks don’t even get 20 percent, but Northrop Grumman does and pocketed $100 million on the deal, for basically handling a wire transfer fee. This amounts to a RICO operation.

And that’s where we get back to the Intercept story. After taking office, Trump’s administration reached out to Northrop about using some of its government-allocated money to get a program going to counter ISIS online. ISIS has several dozen online vehicles and two magazines, which are published in six languages.

Despite spending billions since 9/11, the U.S. has nothing significant on the Internet or dark web, hence ISIS has command of the “air waves” and the narrative. It’s not expensive to counter ISIS online; it just requires a little bit of brainpower, language skills, and a small amount of money.

That’s what Amyntor wanted to do. Maybe it was the wrong company for the job, but somebody needs to do it. Instead, we have The Intercept being used to shoot down a legal, on the books program in order to promote its sources’ agendas, and the military-industrial complex’s mega-profits.

Obama: Birth Of A Washington Machine

[This story was originally published in Harper’s in November 2006, right before Barack Obama announced that he would run for the presidency. I’m publishing a lengthy excerpt here because with the nightmarish presidency of Donald Trump on us, there’s an emerging silly nostalgia in many quarters about the Obama years.

I can’t stand the man, never could, it was apparent from the outset that he was a fraud, and it’s important to remember that now. The most interesting part of this story, IMHO, is about how Obama was carefully vetted by the Democratic establishment before being allowed to become the party nominee — unlike Bernie Sanders, who I’m still not sold on but who at least isn’t a wholly owned establishment subsidiary.

[Historical footnote: I preferred Hillary Clinton to Obama in 2008, though I didn’t support her. As I wrote during the primaries:

I believe Obama has better politics than Clinton, is personally more honorable, and that his victory would represent an important generational shift in American politics. That said, there are a few things that make me like Hillary. First, she’s a bloodthirsty monster who’ll stop at nothing in her quest for power. That is refreshing, given that the Democrats’ default presidential-campaign strategy is to whine about how rough the Republicans play and to get trounced. Another thing that warms me to Clinton is that the media (in general) hates her and loves Obama, which makes me sympathetic toward her and suspicious toward him.

Silly me.]

Obama’s post-presidency has been appalling, with his rush to get rich with his bullshit Clinton-style foundation and paid speeches, and his revolting holiday with oligarch Richard Brandon as the country he helped destroy plunges — if you aren’t rich — towards the abyss.

Obama is a rat and a creep, and if you have fond memories of this guy, always remember this: he came into office promising hope and change, had a popular mandate and majorities in the House and Senate, and even before taking office named Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner, two Wall Street thieves, to his administration’s top two economic posts.

This guy never intended to change anything, the only cause he was passionate about was Barack Obama. Good riddance. There’s a warm spot in hell awaiting you.

*****

In July, on a typically oppressive summer day in Washington, D.C., roughly a thousand college students from across the country gathered at a Marriott hotel with plans to change the world. Despite being sponsored by the Center for American Progress, a moderate think tank founded by one of Bill Clinton’s former chiefs of staff, John Podesta, the student group—called Campus Progress—leans decidedly farther to the left. At booths outside the main auditorium, young activists handed out pamphlets opposing nuclear power, high pay for CEOs, excessive profits for oil companies, harsh prison sentences for drug users, and Israeli militarism in Gaza and the West Bank. At one session, Adrienne Maree Brown of The Ruckus Society—a protest group whose capacious mission is to promote “the voices and visions of youth, women, people of color, indigenous people and immigrants, poor and working class people, lesbian, gay, bisexual, gender queer, and transgendered people”—urged students to “break the fucking rules.” Even the consummate insider Podesta told attendees, with unintended ambiguity, “We need more of you hanging from trees.”

Around noon, conference participants began filing into the auditorium; activists staffing the literature booths abandoned their posts to take seats inside as well. The crowd, and the excitement, building in the hall was due entirely to the imminent arrival of the keynote speaker: Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Having ascended to political fame through a stirring and widely lauded speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention, Obama, the U.S. Senate’s only African-American member, is now considered to be the party’s most promising young leader—especially among those who, like the student organizers present, are seeking to reinvigorate its progressive wing. In terms of sheer charisma, Obama is certainly the party’s most magnetic leader since Bill Clinton, and perhaps since Robert F. Kennedy.

The senator was running a bit late; but when he finally glided into the auditorium, escorted by an assortment of aides, he was greeted by a tremendous swell of applause as he took to the stage. Dressed in a brown jacket and red tie, Obama approached the podium, flanked by two giant screens enlarging his image, and began a softly spoken but compelling speech that recalled his own days, after his graduation in 1983 from Columbia University, as a community organizer in poor neighborhoods of Chicago. “You’ll have boundless opportunities when you graduate,” he told the students, “and it’s very easy to just take that diploma, forget about all this progressive-politics stuff, and go chasing after the big house and the large salary and the nice suits and all the other things that our money culture says you should buy. But I hope you don’t get off that easy. There’s nothing wrong with making money, but focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a poverty of ambition.”

Obama complained of an American culture that “discourages empathy,” in which those in power blame poverty on people who are “lazy or weak of spirit” and believe that “innocent people being slaughtered and expelled from their homes halfway around the world are somebody else’s problem.” He urged the assembled activists to ignore those voices, “not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate than you, although I think you do have that obligation . . . but primarily because you have that obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation. It’s only when you hitch yourself up to something bigger than yourself that you realize your true potential.”

It was a rousing speech, and Obama is probably the only member of Congress who could have delivered it with any conviction or credibility. When he left the stage and headed toward the hotel exit, he was trailed by a pack of autograph seekers, picture takers, and glad-handers.

Despite its audience and ostensible subject matter, however, Obama’s speech had contained just a single call for political action. This was when he had introduced Mark Pike, a law student who then came bounding across the stage in a green one-piece mechanic’s outfit. As part of a campaign called “Kick the Oil Habit,” Pike was to depart directly from the conference and drive from Washington to Los Angeles in a “flex-fuel” vehicle. “Give it up for Mark!” Obama had urged the crowd, noting that Pike would be refueling only at gas stations that offer E85—which Obama touts as “a clean, renewable, and domestically produced alternative fuel.”

Although the senator did not elaborate, E85 is so called because it is 85 percent ethanol, a product whose profits accrue to a small group of corporate corn growers led by Illinois-headquartered Archer Daniels Midland. Not surprisingly, agribusiness is a primary advocate of E85, as are such automobile manufacturers as Ford, which donated Pike’s car. The automakers love E85 because it allows them to look environmentally correct (“Live Green, Go Yellow,” goes GM’s advertising pitch for the fuel) while producing vehicles, mostly highly profitable and fuel-guzzling SUV and pickup models, that can run on regular gasoline as well as on E85. 11. Since producing most domestic ethanol requires large amounts of fossil fuel, and regular gasoline provides about 30 percent more mileage per gallon than E85, it’s arguably preferable from a conservation standpoint to drive a standard gasoline car rather than a flex-fuel vehicle. Obama had essentially marshaled his twenty minutes of undeniably moving oratory to plump for the classic pork-barrel cause of every Midwestern politician.


In an election season, when Americans of all political persuasions can allow themselves to imagine—even if for just a few unguarded moments—how matters in this country might improve if its leaders did, it is worthwhile to consider the path so far of Senator Barack Obama. A man more suited to the tastes of reform-minded Americans could hardly be imagined: he is passionate, charming, and well-intentioned, and his desire to change the culture of Washington seems deeply held and real. He managed to win a tremendous majority in his home state of Illinois despite rhetoric, and a legislative record, that marked him as a true progressive. During his first year in the state senate—1997—he helped lead a laudable if quixotic crusade that would have amended the state constitution to define health care as a basic right and would have required the Illinois General Assembly to ensure that all the state’s citizens could get health insurance within five years. He led initiatives to aid the poor, including campaigns that resulted in an earned-income tax credit and the expansion of early-childhood-education programs. In 2001, reacting to a surge in home foreclosures in Chicago, he helped push for a measure that cracked down on predatory lenders that peddled high-interest, high-fee mortgages to lower-end homebuyers.

Obama was also the driving force behind legislation, passed in 2003, that made Illinois the first state to require law-enforcement agencies to tape interrogations and confessions of murder suspects. Throughout his campaign for the U.S. Senate, Obama called for social justice, promised to “stand up to the powerful drug and insurance lobbies” that block health-care reform, and denounced the war in Iraq and the Bush White House.

Since coming to Washington, Obama has advocated for the poor, most notably in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and has emerged as a champion of clean government. He has fought for restrictions on lobbying, even as most of his fellow Democrats postured on the issue while quietly seeking to gut real reform initiatives. In mid-September, Congress approved a bill he co-authored with Oklahoma’s arch-conservative senator, Tom Coburn, requiring all federal contracts and earmarks to be published in an Internet database, a step that will better allow citizens to track the way the government spends their money.

Yet it is also startling to see how quickly Obama’s senatorship has been woven into the web of institutionalized influence-trading that afflicts official Washington. He quickly established a political machine funded and run by a standard Beltway group of lobbyists, P.R. consultants, and hangers-on. For the staff post of policy director he hired Karen Kornbluh, a senior aide to Robert Rubin when the latter, as head of the Treasury Department under Bill Clinton, was a chief advocate for NAFTA and other free-trade policies that decimated the nation’s manufacturing sector (and the organized labor wing of the Democratic Party). Obama’s top contributors are corporate law and lobbying firms (Kirkland & Ellis and Skadden, Arps, where four attorneys are fund-raisers for Obama as well as donors), Wall Street financial houses (Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase), and big Chicago interests (Henry Crown and Company, an investment firm that has stakes in industries ranging from telecommunications to defense). Obama immediately established a “leadership PAC,” a vehicle through which a member of Congress can contribute to other politicians’ campaigns—and one that political reform groups generally view as a slush fund through which congressional leaders can evade campaign-finance rules while raising their own political profiles.

Already considered a potential vice-presidential nominee in 2008, Obama clearly has abundant political ambitions. Hence he is playing not only to voters in Illinois—a reliably Democratic and generally liberal state—but to the broader national audience, as well as to the Democratic Party establishment, the Washington media, and large political donors. Perhaps for this reason, Obama has taken an approach to his policymaking that is notably cautious and nonconfrontational. “Since the founding, the American political tradition has been reformist, not revolutionary,” he told me during an interview at his office on Capitol Hill this summer. “What that means is that for a political leader to get things done, he or she ideally should be ahead of the curve, but not too far ahead. I want to push the envelope but make sure I have enough folks with me that I’m not rendered politically impotent.”

The question, though, is just how effective—let alone reformist—Obama’s approach can be in a Washington grown hostile to reform and those who advocate it. After a quarter century when the Democratic Party to which he belongs has moved steadily to the right, and the political system in general has become thoroughly dominated by the corporate perspective, the first requirement of electoral success is now the ability to raise staggering sums of money. For Barack Obama, this means that mounting a successful career, especially one that may include a run for the presidency, cannot even be attempted without the kind of compromising and horse trading that may, in fact, render him impotent.


 

Mrs. Fraud.

The walls of Obama’s office on the seventh floor of the Hart Senate Office Building are decorated with images from the canon of liberal icons. There are photos of Martin Luther King addressing a civil rights rally, Gandhi sitting cross-legged, and Obama with Nelson Mandela; a painting of Thurgood Marshall, and, above a framed pair of red boxing gloves signed by Muhammad Ali, the famous photo of a scowling Ali standing over Sonny Liston after knocking him out during their second fight, in Lewiston, Maine.

When I interviewed him this summer, I had my eleven-year-old daughter in tow, because her outing with a friend had fallen through just as I was leaving home. Obama, who is married and has two young daughters of his own, asked her a few questions; when she told him she was starting seventh grade in the fall, he told her that at her age, “I was such a terror that my teachers didn’t know what to do with me.” He draped his gray jacket over his leather desk chair and urged her to have a seat. For the next hour, she contentedly twirled on the chair while we spoke across the room, Obama on a tan sofa and me on a chair to his right.

I asked Obama how he was adjusting to Washington and the city’s peculiar political culture. “I have not had to partake of the culture much,” he replied. “My family lives in Chicago, and I’m usually here Tuesday through Thursday. I rarely meet lobbyists; it’s one of the benefits of having a good staff.” Nor has he had to devote much time to fund-raising. “The first $250,000 that I raised was like pulling teeth,” he recalled. “No major Democratic donors knew me, I had a funny name, they wouldn’t take my phone calls. Then at a certain point we sort of clicked into the public consciousness and the buzz, and I benefited from a lot of small individual contributions that helped me get over the hump. . . . And then after winning, the notoriety that I received made raising money relatively simple, and so I don’t have the same challenges that most candidates do now, and that’s pure luck. It’s one of the benefits of celebrity.”

Obama sat with his arms and legs crossed, one foot tapping the air. Progressive candidates generally have a harder time raising money, he said, and at times some of them will “trim their sails” on behalf of the people who are financing them. “When I say that,” he was hasty to add, “I want to make sure I’m not saying all the time. I’m just saying there are going to be points where donors have more access and are taken more into account than ordinary voters.” The solution he supports is some form of public financing for campaigns, combined—since big donors “are always going to find a way to get money” to candidates—with some reduction in the cost of running for office; for example, by providing candidates with free political advertising.

Personally, though, Obama felt that he had not trimmed his own political sails to make himself palatable to the political center. His primary obstacle, he said, is simply that the G.O.P. controls the White House and Congress. “My experience in the state legislature is instructive. The first seven years I was there I was in the minority, and I think that I passed maybe ten bills; maybe five of them were substantive. Most of the bills that I did pass were in partnership with Republicans, because that was the only way I could get them passed. The first year we were in the majority party I passed twenty-six bills in one year.” While Washington “moves more slowly than the state legislature,” Obama said he had no doubt that if the Democrats controlled Congress, it would be possible to move forward on important progressive legislation.

The alternative, until then, is to be opportunistic and look for areas where he can get enough Republican support to actually get a bill passed. That, he said, “means that most of the legislation I’ve proposed will be more modest in its goals than it would be if I were in the majority party.” Obama gave an example: although he is a strong supporter of raising fuel-economy standards, proposals to do so have gone nowhere for years. In 2005, Congress overwhelmingly rejected an amendment to the energy bill that would have required cars, minivans, and SUVs to get 40 miles per gallon on average by 2016. This year, Obama and Indiana Republican Richard Lugar introduced a bill that would require fuel-economy targets to rise 4 percent annually unless federal regulators specifically blocked that step. Obama recruited as co-sponsors four senators who had voted against the 2005 amendment—Democrat Joe Biden of Delaware and Republicans Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Gordon Smith of Oregon, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania—and although this bill might not pass either, it has a better chance than past efforts.

I asked Obama a question about pork-barrel spending. Did he feel pressure to deliver federal money for home-state interests? “Pork is in the eye of the beholder,” he said. “The recipients don’t tend to think it’s pork, especially if it’s a great public-works project.” He said he felt “pretty good” about projects he had sought in last year’s transportation bill and “unashamed” about getting them in. House Speaker Dennis Hastert had praised Obama for his efforts in helping win Illinois its $6.2 billion in the massive, earmarklarded 2005 transportation bill. (Illinois’s most extravagant project funded by the bill was the Prairie Parkway, a controversial regional highway that would run through Hastert’s district and, in fact, has significantly increased the value of real estate he owns along the proposed route.)

An aide came in and told Obama that Congressman David Dreier was on the phone to discuss legislation to aid the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country that Obama was planning to visit as part of a trip to Africa. After taking the call at his desk, Obama returned to the couch and took up the pork-barrel question again. He gave as an example President Bush’s Clear Skies Initiative, which he described as a difficult decision. After examining the legislation, he determined that it would significantly weaken the Clean Air Act, yet the administration claimed it would help the coal industry, a major economic force in southern Illinois. In the end, he opposed it because he decided it would have been more beneficial to western coal producers, not those in Illinois. “That kind of vote is a tough vote, not so much on the merits as it is on the politics,” he said. “I then have to spend a lot of time working that through with my constituents in southern Illinois, explaining to them why I did not think it was actually good for them.” Even so, he took heat at home, with one southern Illinois newspaper editorial saying that he was less interested in looking out for the interests of the state’s coal industry than he was in voting with the interests of Barbara Boxer and Hillary Clinton.

And what if he had determined that the Clear Skies Initiative would have aided Illinois coal? I asked. In that case, Obama said, “It would have been more difficult for me. . . . If I thought that it would have significantly helped Illinois coal but would have been a net minus for the environment, then you’ve got your classic legislative dilemma.”

Obama said that the “blogger community,” which by now is shorthand for liberal Democrats, gets frustrated with him because they think he’s too willing to compromise with Republicans. “My argument,” he says, “is that a polarized electorate plays to the advantage of those who want to dismantle government. Karl Rove can afford to win with 51 percent of the vote. They’re not trying to reform health care. They are content with an electorate that is cynical about government. Progressives have a harder job. They need a big enough majority to initiate bold proposals.”


Before he addressed the 2004 convention, Obama was virtually unknown nationally, and even in Illinois his was far from a household name. Just four years earlier, he had been defeated by a significant margin when he tried to unseat Chicago-area Congressman Bobby Rush in the Democratic primary. But following the speech, which was universally hailed—even the National Review called it “simple and powerful,” conceding that it had deserved its “rapturous critical reception”—Obama became a national celebrity. Less than two months later, he won election to the Senate with 70 percent of the vote.

If the speech was his debut to the wider American public, he had already undergone an equally successful but much quieter audition with Democratic Party leaders and fund-raisers, without whose support he would surely never have been chosen for such a prominent role at the convention. The early, if not overwhelming, favorite to be the Senate nominee from Illinois had been Dan Hynes, the state comptroller, who had twice won statewide office and had the support of the state’s Democratic machine and labor unions. But by September 2003, six months before the primary, Obama was winning support from not only African Americans but also Chicago’s “Lakefront Liberals” and other progressives. He was still largely unknown in Washington circles, but that changed the following month when Vernon Jordan, the well-known power broker and corporate boardmember who chaired Bill Clinton’s presidential transition team after the 1992 election, placed calls to roughly twenty of his friends and invited them to a fund-raiser at his home.

That event marked his entry into a well-established Washington ritual—the gauntlet of fund-raising parties and meet-and-greets through which potential stars are vetted by fixers, donors, and lobbyists. Gregory Craig, an attorney with Williams & Connolly and a longtime Democratic figure who, as special counsel in the White House, had coordinated Bill Clinton’s impeachment defense, met Obama that night. “I liked his sense of humor and the confidence he had discussing national issues, especially as a state senator,” Craig recalled of the event. “You felt excited to be in his presence.” Another thing that Craig liked about Obama was that he’s not seen as a “polarizer,” like such traditional African-American leaders as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. “He gets respect from his adversaries because of the way he treats them,” Craig said. “He doesn’t try to be all things to all people, but he has a way of taking positions you don’t like without making you angry.”

Word about Obama spread through Washington’s blue-chip law firms, lobby shops, and political offices, and this accelerated after his win in the March primary. Mike Williams, vice president for legislative affairs at The Bond Market Association and a member of an African-American lobbying association, had been following the race in Illinois and was introduced to Obama through acquaintances in Washington who had known him at Harvard Law School. “We represent Wall Street firms,” Williams said in recounting his first conversation with Obama. “A big issue for us since 2000 is predatory lending. He worked on that issue in Illinois; he was the lead sponsor of a bill there. I talked to him about that. He had a different position from ours. There’s a perception out there that the Democrats are anti-business, and I talked to him about that directly. I said, There’s a perception that you’re coming at this from the angle of consumers. He was forthright, which I appreciated. He said, I tried to broker the best deal I could.” Williams still had his differences with Obama, but the conversation convinced him that the two could work together. “He’s not a political novice and he’s smart enough not to say things cast in stone, but you can have a conversation with him,” Williams said. “He’s a straight shooter. As a lobbyist, that’s something you value. You don’t need a yes every time, but you want to be able to count the votes. That’s what we do.”

Williams subsequently set up a conference call between Obama and a group of financial-industry lobbyists. That, too, went well, and in June of 2004, Williams helped organize “a little fund-raiser” for Obama at The Bond Market Association. “It wasn’t just the financial community. There was a broad cross-section,” he said of the 200 or so people who turned out. “There was overwhelming support, not just people from associations giving $2,000 but from individuals who just wanted to meet him, giving smaller contributions.”

Tom Quinn, a senior partner at Venable and widely considered one of the top lobbyists in town, got a call from Williams and attended the fund-raiser. “I’m on the list. Pretty much everyone in political fund-raising circles knows me,” said Quinn, who works closely with the Democratic National Committee and has been a party power broker since the late 1960s, when he worked on the presidential campaign of Hubert Humphrey. “Every day I get ten or fifteen solicitations. I contribute if I like the candidate and think they have a chance to win.” He was impressed when he heard that Obama had been president of the Harvard Law Review— “That jumped out at me. It showed he had absolute intelligence” — and even more impressed after meeting him. “He’s got a nice personal touch and the ability to kid around a little bit too,” he said. “He’s got star quality.” Quinn contributed $500 to Obama at The Bond Market Association event, and later made calls to people he knew and asked them to donate money as well.

Robert Harmala, also a big player in Democratic circles and a colleague of Quinn’s at Venable, attended the association’s event as well. He had been invited by Larry Duncan—an African-American lobbyist for Lockheed Martin, a Venable client—who helped Williams organize the affair. Harmala liked what he saw and continued to be impressed by Obama. “There’s a reasonableness about him,” he said. “I don’t see him as being on the liberal fringe. He’s not going to be a parrot for the party line.” Like Quinn, Harmala donated $500 to Obama and made calls to a number of political donors (“Some usual suspects in California whom I’ve worked with before”) and urged them to support Obama’s campaign. Other fund-raisers were soon organized—one at the Four Seasons Hotel, another at a Dupont Circle restaurant, yet another at the Clintons’ home off Embassy Row. “He was hitting his stride. There were people clamoring to help,” said Williams. “It wasn’t just one person who put the events together and it wasn’t all about raising money—people wanted to meet him and talk to him.”


It’s not always clear what Obama’s financial backers want, but it seems safe to conclude that his campaign contributors are not interested merely in clean government and political reform. And although Obama is by no means a mouthpiece for his funders, it appears that he’s not entirely indifferent to their desires either.

Consider the case of Illinois-based Exelon Corporation, the nation’s leading nuclear-power-plant operator. The firm is Obama’s fourth largest patron, having donated a total of $74,350 to his campaigns. During debate on the 2005 energy bill, Obama helped to vote down an amendment that would have killed vast loan guarantees for power-plant operators to develop new energy projects. The loan guarantees were called “one of the worst provisions in this massive piece of legislation” by Taxpayers for Common Sense and Citizens Against Government Waste; the public will not only pay millions of dollars in loan costs but will risk losing billions of dollars if the companies default….

“Give Us The Man, We Will Make The Case”: Civil Forfeiture, RussiaGate And The Police State

When do we realize we’re already living in a police state?

Maybe one clue is when our betters make a point of assuring us that we aren’t. Here’s Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifying before a House Judiciary Committee inquiry into political bias in the Robert Mueller “Russia-gate” investigation:

Department of Justice employees are united by a shared understanding that our mission is to pursue justice, protect public safety, preserve government property, defend civil rights, and promote the rule of law.

Rosenstein’s contempt for his interlocutors’ intelligence was unconcealed. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

Rod’s on the job! Americans can certainly sleep peacefully tonight.

Or maybe not. Besides cracking down on states’ playing fast and loose with federal marijuana laws, one of the first enforcement actions ordered by Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R-Recused) was to step up use of civil forfeiture, which is a fancy way of saying “taking the property of people who have not been convicted of anything, or even accused of anything, with little recourse.”

But no sweat, there are “safeguards” to assure that property seizures only impact drug kingpins and gangsters – right?

Sessions’s order . . .  resuscitates a practice known as “federal adoption,” which allows police and prosecutors to circumvent state restrictions on asset seizures by collaborating with federal authorities. Through this partnership, state and local authorities turn their seizures over to federal colleagues, who “adopt” them for prosecution—ultimately returning up to eighty per cent of the assets to the originating cops or prosecutors to keep. One result, often unaddressed in critiques of forfeiture, is the tacit encouragement of racial profiling and targeting of property owners of color, who remain prime targets of the practice in much of the country.

A seventy-three-year-old Amtrak retiree named Elizabeth Young understands what’s at stake in Sessions’s civil-forfeiture endorsement. In 2009, she was resting in her West Philadelphia home, recovering from a hospitalization for two blood clots in her lungs, when suddenly she felt her house begin to shake. “I really thought we’d had one of those landslides, like they have in California,” Young told me recently. “I said, ‘What in the world is happening?’ ” She poked her head out into the hallway from her second-floor bedroom, and that’s when she saw them: “a bunch of cops in fatigues,” storming her stairs in a swat-style raid; down below, they were ransacking rooms. The Narcotics North Division was tearing up the house in pursuit of Young’s son, whom they later alleged had sold some hundred and forty dollars’ worth of pot from the residence and from his mom’s 1997 Chevrolet. Nearly a year after the raid, Ms. Young got another round of alarming news: the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had filed a petition to seize her house and car, by way of civil forfeiture. [ . . . ]

Sessions sees a different picture. “Four out of five administrative civil-asset forfeitures filed by federal law enforcement agencies were never challenged in court,” he said recently, implying that a lack of legal challenge is proof of guilt. But if hiring a lawyer to fight your civil-forfeiture case costs more than your property is worth, the math prevails. Unlike a criminal defendant, Young’s 1997 Chevrolet had no right to a public defender.

Or consider the global move toward what is euphemistically called international financial “transparency.” I mean, who can be opposed to a certified doubleplusgood concept like transparency?

But it depends on who’s being transparent about what. Take Ken Silverstein’s examination of the International Consortium of Independent (sic) Journalists: why do hardly any Americans get transparency-ed in the Panama Papers but so many folks with connections with Russia do? Why so little transparency about who’s lavishly paying the ICIJ piper and for what purpose? Why does a law like FATCA (“Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act”) catch so few actual “fat cat” tax cheats and recover so little revenue, but pours tons of private financial data of innocent middle class people into the maw of the intelligence agencies?

Why? For the same reason James Clapper perjured himself telling Senator Rand Paul that the NSA doesn’t collect our cell phone metadata:

—Inquiring minds want to know.

—If you have nothing to hide, why would you object.

—Big Brother Is Watching You (and listening, and compiling your data, etc)…

—…but it’s all for your own protection.

This is literally the opposite of genuine transparency: “It is a practice of good government for institutions to be transparent and open to the people. It is a practice of tyranny for individuals to be made transparent to the government.”

Police state? We hardly need mention the feds’ zeal to protect our virgin eyes and ears from “Russian propaganda” or any American media that betrays its disloyalty by carrying any news or opinion that allegedly resembles it.

Or take the guilty pleas of former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and peripheral Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos for the non-crime of “lying to the FBI.” Both detractors and defenders of the Trump administration have gleefully piled on the hapless Flynn and Papadopoulos. They lied! They lied! They lied!

But did they lie? Are we that naïve about how our diligent organs of state security work? Take the case of Flynn:

Russia-gate enthusiasts are thrilled over the guilty plea of President Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI about pre-inauguration conversations with the Russian ambassador, but the case should alarm true civil libertarians.

What is arguably most disturbing about this case is that then-National Security Adviser Flynn was pushed into a perjury trap by Obama administration holdovers at the Justice Department who concocted an unorthodox legal rationale for subjecting Flynn to an FBI interrogation four days after he took office, testing Flynn’s recollection of the conversations while the FBI agents had transcripts of the calls intercepted by the National Security Agency.

In other words, the Justice Department wasn’t seeking information about what Flynn said to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak – the intelligence agencies already had that information. Instead, Flynn was being quizzed on his precise recollection of the conversations and nailed for lying when his recollections deviated from the transcripts.

Keep in mind that when these “interviews” take place

…the federal agent is typically well-informed about the facts of the case, but plays dumb in order to instill a false sense of confidence in the interview subject. And, unlike you, the agent has had time to examine all relevant documents. (It also bears noting that the FBI will usually not tape record the interview and that the only official interview report will be an FBI 302, which is the agent’s own dictated version of the conversation. Agents usually work in pairs as well, so in any later dispute over what was said in the interview, guess whose version is likely to prevail? Yours, or the two FBI agents who dictated the 302?)

Good grief! You’re better off not saying anything at all. Except that’s not an option either:

If you are not in custody, your total silence, especially in the face of an accusation, can very possibly be used against you as an adoptive admission under the Federal Rules of Evidence.

This means you are subjected to questioning on a matter where you have done nothing wrong, your responses are being compared (without your knowledge) to detailed records (which you haven’t consulted) and to the agent’s subjective notes (to which you are not privy). Even though you’re not under oath every discrepancy of date, time, name, sequence, or other detail becomes a separate felony charge, each one of which is punishable by years in prison: Alright, Mr. or Ms. X. We’re prepared to charge you with 14 felony counts, which will put you in prison for the rest of your life. Or you can plead guilty to one charge of lying to the FBI, with a light or possibly suspended sentence. Which will it be?

Your other option is to go to trial before a jury of sheep your peers, where the feds have a 90 percent-plus conviction rate. Or you can try to fight the charges until you’ve utterly bankrupted yourself, you’ve gone into debt you can never pay back, and your marriage has broken up – they can afford to wait — and still be in the same pickle. The mystery is that everyone doesn’t take the plea offer right away.

In short, if they want to nail you, they can. Like the boychiks used to say in the good ol’ NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs; Народный комиссариат внутренних дел): “Give Us the Man, and We Will Make the Case.” (I guess nowadays, we should say “person.”)

Oh come on! What hyperbole! We don’t torture or shoot people like the NKVD did! We don’t work people to death in concentration camps!

That’s right, we – or rather, they – don’t have to resort to that kind of thing. In fact, during the late Soviet period they hardly shot anyone and didn’t even lock that many people up. For most, it was enough to know that they could lock you up.

That’s more than sufficient for the sort of weaklings today’s Americans are.

There you have it. Your property can be seized at any time. Your “private” information, isn’t. We are told what media to believe and what not. You can be put in jail if someone decides you need to be put in jail.

Merry Christmas!

"Give Us The Man, We Will Make The Case": Civil Forfeiture, RussiaGate And The Police State

When do we realize we’re already living in a police state?

Maybe one clue is when our betters make a point of assuring us that we aren’t. Here’s Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifying before a House Judiciary Committee inquiry into political bias in the Robert Mueller “Russia-gate” investigation:

Department of Justice employees are united by a shared understanding that our mission is to pursue justice, protect public safety, preserve government property, defend civil rights, and promote the rule of law.

Rosenstein’s contempt for his interlocutors’ intelligence was unconcealed. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

Rod’s on the job! Americans can certainly sleep peacefully tonight.

Or maybe not. Besides cracking down on states’ playing fast and loose with federal marijuana laws, one of the first enforcement actions ordered by Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R-Recused) was to step up use of civil forfeiture, which is a fancy way of saying “taking the property of people who have not been convicted of anything, or even accused of anything, with little recourse.”

But no sweat, there are “safeguards” to assure that property seizures only impact drug kingpins and gangsters – right?

Sessions’s order . . .  resuscitates a practice known as “federal adoption,” which allows police and prosecutors to circumvent state restrictions on asset seizures by collaborating with federal authorities. Through this partnership, state and local authorities turn their seizures over to federal colleagues, who “adopt” them for prosecution—ultimately returning up to eighty per cent of the assets to the originating cops or prosecutors to keep. One result, often unaddressed in critiques of forfeiture, is the tacit encouragement of racial profiling and targeting of property owners of color, who remain prime targets of the practice in much of the country.

A seventy-three-year-old Amtrak retiree named Elizabeth Young understands what’s at stake in Sessions’s civil-forfeiture endorsement. In 2009, she was resting in her West Philadelphia home, recovering from a hospitalization for two blood clots in her lungs, when suddenly she felt her house begin to shake. “I really thought we’d had one of those landslides, like they have in California,” Young told me recently. “I said, ‘What in the world is happening?’ ” She poked her head out into the hallway from her second-floor bedroom, and that’s when she saw them: “a bunch of cops in fatigues,” storming her stairs in a swat-style raid; down below, they were ransacking rooms. The Narcotics North Division was tearing up the house in pursuit of Young’s son, whom they later alleged had sold some hundred and forty dollars’ worth of pot from the residence and from his mom’s 1997 Chevrolet. Nearly a year after the raid, Ms. Young got another round of alarming news: the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had filed a petition to seize her house and car, by way of civil forfeiture. [ . . . ]

Sessions sees a different picture. “Four out of five administrative civil-asset forfeitures filed by federal law enforcement agencies were never challenged in court,” he said recently, implying that a lack of legal challenge is proof of guilt. But if hiring a lawyer to fight your civil-forfeiture case costs more than your property is worth, the math prevails. Unlike a criminal defendant, Young’s 1997 Chevrolet had no right to a public defender.

Or consider the global move toward what is euphemistically called international financial “transparency.” I mean, who can be opposed to a certified doubleplusgood concept like transparency?

But it depends on who’s being transparent about what. Take Ken Silverstein’s examination of the International Consortium of Independent (sic) Journalists: why do hardly any Americans get transparency-ed in the Panama Papers but so many folks with connections with Russia do? Why so little transparency about who’s lavishly paying the ICIJ piper and for what purpose? Why does a law like FATCA (“Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act”) catch so few actual “fat cat” tax cheats and recover so little revenue, but pours tons of private financial data of innocent middle class people into the maw of the intelligence agencies?

Why? For the same reason James Clapper perjured himself telling Senator Rand Paul that the NSA doesn’t collect our cell phone metadata:

—Inquiring minds want to know.

—If you have nothing to hide, why would you object.

—Big Brother Is Watching You (and listening, and compiling your data, etc)…

—…but it’s all for your own protection.

This is literally the opposite of genuine transparency: “It is a practice of good government for institutions to be transparent and open to the people. It is a practice of tyranny for individuals to be made transparent to the government.”

Police state? We hardly need mention the feds’ zeal to protect our virgin eyes and ears from “Russian propaganda” or any American media that betrays its disloyalty by carrying any news or opinion that allegedly resembles it.

Or take the guilty pleas of former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and peripheral Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos for the non-crime of “lying to the FBI.” Both detractors and defenders of the Trump administration have gleefully piled on the hapless Flynn and Papadopoulos. They lied! They lied! They lied!

But did they lie? Are we that naïve about how our diligent organs of state security work? Take the case of Flynn:

Russia-gate enthusiasts are thrilled over the guilty plea of President Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI about pre-inauguration conversations with the Russian ambassador, but the case should alarm true civil libertarians.

What is arguably most disturbing about this case is that then-National Security Adviser Flynn was pushed into a perjury trap by Obama administration holdovers at the Justice Department who concocted an unorthodox legal rationale for subjecting Flynn to an FBI interrogation four days after he took office, testing Flynn’s recollection of the conversations while the FBI agents had transcripts of the calls intercepted by the National Security Agency.

In other words, the Justice Department wasn’t seeking information about what Flynn said to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak – the intelligence agencies already had that information. Instead, Flynn was being quizzed on his precise recollection of the conversations and nailed for lying when his recollections deviated from the transcripts.

Keep in mind that when these “interviews” take place

…the federal agent is typically well-informed about the facts of the case, but plays dumb in order to instill a false sense of confidence in the interview subject. And, unlike you, the agent has had time to examine all relevant documents. (It also bears noting that the FBI will usually not tape record the interview and that the only official interview report will be an FBI 302, which is the agent’s own dictated version of the conversation. Agents usually work in pairs as well, so in any later dispute over what was said in the interview, guess whose version is likely to prevail? Yours, or the two FBI agents who dictated the 302?)

Good grief! You’re better off not saying anything at all. Except that’s not an option either:

If you are not in custody, your total silence, especially in the face of an accusation, can very possibly be used against you as an adoptive admission under the Federal Rules of Evidence.

This means you are subjected to questioning on a matter where you have done nothing wrong, your responses are being compared (without your knowledge) to detailed records (which you haven’t consulted) and to the agent’s subjective notes (to which you are not privy). Even though you’re not under oath every discrepancy of date, time, name, sequence, or other detail becomes a separate felony charge, each one of which is punishable by years in prison: Alright, Mr. or Ms. X. We’re prepared to charge you with 14 felony counts, which will put you in prison for the rest of your life. Or you can plead guilty to one charge of lying to the FBI, with a light or possibly suspended sentence. Which will it be?

Your other option is to go to trial before a jury of sheep your peers, where the feds have a 90 percent-plus conviction rate. Or you can try to fight the charges until you’ve utterly bankrupted yourself, you’ve gone into debt you can never pay back, and your marriage has broken up – they can afford to wait — and still be in the same pickle. The mystery is that everyone doesn’t take the plea offer right away.

In short, if they want to nail you, they can. Like the boychiks used to say in the good ol’ NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs; Народный комиссариат внутренних дел): “Give Us the Man, and We Will Make the Case.” (I guess nowadays, we should say “person.”)

Oh come on! What hyperbole! We don’t torture or shoot people like the NKVD did! We don’t work people to death in concentration camps!

That’s right, we – or rather, they – don’t have to resort to that kind of thing. In fact, during the late Soviet period they hardly shot anyone and didn’t even lock that many people up. For most, it was enough to know that they could lock you up.

That’s more than sufficient for the sort of weaklings today’s Americans are.

There you have it. Your property can be seized at any time. Your “private” information, isn’t. We are told what media to believe and what not. You can be put in jail if someone decides you need to be put in jail.

Merry Christmas!

Susan Sarandon, The Death Of Net Neutrality And The Crude Sexism Of The Hillary Bros

The FCC voted to repeal net neutrality rules on December 14, in a decision that will hurt consumers and ruin the internet forever unless congress steps in to oppose the decision. Eric Boehlert, a ShareBlue writer, formerly of Media Matters, blamed Susan Sarandon for the repeal.
CauseWired Founder Tom Watson tweeted on the same day that Sarandon, “callously abandoned marginalized Americans and the entire progressive agenda.” CAP President Neera Tanden invoked a similar sentiment by comparing black voters supporting Hillary Clinton to Sarandon voting for Jill Stein, which apparently is the key cause of Trump’s Victory.
Sarandon voted for Jill Stein in New York, and committed the crime of expressing a political opinion in an interview during the election that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were awful candidates. That criticism has been heavily conflated, always without citation, that Sarandon viewed Clinton as worse than Trump.
Sarandon was one of few high profile celebrities who didn’t offer unabated praise and endorsement for Clinton during the 2016 election. Others didn’t express political views at all and actors Viggo Mortensen and Tim Robbins also voted for Jill Stein. But it’s been Sarandon who has served as a proxy target for childish Clinton supporter rage over every single awful thing the Trump Administration and Republicans do in office.
In their minds, it was Susan Sarandon that caused Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — states that went to Barack Obama in 2012 — to vote for Trump last year. Even under the Clinton revisionism that Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan were the only states Clinton performed poorly in that were easily winnable, Clinton still benefited, under the same logic, by Libertarian Candidate, former Republican New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson outperforming Stein easily in all three states and possibly taking away some voters from Donald Trump.
In Pennsylvania, conservative Constitution Party candidate Darrell Castle received over 21,000 votes and Johnson received over 146,000, compared to Stein’s 49,000 votes. In Wisconsin, neo-con Evan McMullin received 11,000 votes, Castle received 12,000 votes and Johnson over 100,000 votes, while Stein received just 31,000.
In Michigan, McMullin received 8,000 votes, Castle received 16,000 votes, and Johnson over 172,000 votes, compared to Stein with just over 51,000. Conservatives had more options to choose a third party candidate in states across the country and did so in much higher numbers than those on the left, yet Clinton still managed to lose. But its easier to shift blame toward a proxy than reconcile with the severe flaws of Clinton’s candidacy and the lazy arrogance that her campaign was built on.
Ignored by Watson, Tanden, and other Clinton obsessives’ recent invocation to weaponize black voters as a cudgel against Sarandon is the fact that voter turnout among African-Americans decreased from 66.6 percent in 2012 to  59.6 percent in 2016. Among those who voted, Clinton’s share of the black vote decreased by 5 percent from Obama’s in 2012.
The running theme from Doug Jones’ upset victory over Roy Moore in the Alabama special election senate race is the Democratic Party shouldn’t take black voters for granted, but instead focus resources and efforts to boost voter turnout in black communities and promote policies that would help these marginalized communities. This lesson is being ignored in this criticism by Clinton loyalists who once again treat black voters as a demographic that will unequivocally support Democrats, with nothing given in return.
Clinton focused more on lavish fundraisers and high profile endorsements, which even Barack Obama criticized shortly after the election by noting Clinton avoided grassroots campaigning in Wisconsin, Iowa, and other areas that he won in 2008 and 2012 by making appearances and engaging with voters. What Alabama should teach centrists is that a campaign that focuses on grassroots organizing, knocking on doors, and demonstrating through messaging what’s at stake can help Democrats win statewide elections even in places like Alabama that have been written off by the Democratic Party for decades as unwinnable, and unworthy of party resources.
Sarandon has little political power, even with her large platform as a celebrity. But Clinton fans continue to need a scapegoat for her humiliating and Sarandon is yet one more, and allows them to 2016 smear progressives in general. Evan McMullin ran for President against Hillary Clinton, but the same people who criticize Sarandon have no reservation about praising his empty neo-conservative critiques and even supporting his problematic policy stances and political ideology.
Scolding voters and blaming Susan Sarandon — and one can’t help but feel that she’s being used in this regard because she’s seen by Hillary fans, like Fox New, as an empty-headed bimbo — will never work to win over disillusioned voters. The constant use of this tactic, especially as it’s often reserved for hyper-partisan takes on social media because a full op-ed trying to substantiate the argument would only serve to demonstrate how crazy it sounds, is reflective of a Democratic Party whose self-proclaimed leaders prefer to shame voters rather than offer them ideas.

CNN's Bogus RussiaGate Story Again Shows Media's Fervor To Publish Fake News

The trend to jump to conclusions or run outright false stories about Trump-Russia have developed into a post-2016 election past time for mainstream media outlets. On November 24, 2016 The Washington Post published a controversial interview with anonymous sources from PropOrNot, a poorly-constructed website that listed several actual news sites as Russian propaganda outlets.
Due to the backlash it received, the Post added an editor’s note claiming that it could not “vouch for the validity of PropOrNot’s findings.” However, the Post found the story valuable, in clicks and in propagating its own agenda, and has refused to take down the story.
On December 31, 2016, the Pospublished another false story claiming the Vermont Utility System had been hacked. The story was debunked shortly after publication, but not before several politicians and pundits ran with its bogus allegations.
An editor’s note was added to article: “An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid.” Not only was the computer not attached to the grid, but the malware code found on the laptop is common and in no way implied that the genesis of it was the Russian government.
 
A January 12, 2017 C-SPAN show was interrupted for 10 minutes with the broadcast of RT (Russia Today). C-SPAN concluded that the error was the result of a routing glitch. However, mainstream media outlets sensationalized the glitch and hypothesized that a Russian government hack was responsible The same month, BuzzFeed published a report on the Trump Dossier, despite the opposition research document that it was based on — and which the outlet also published — being riddled with errors and unverifiable assumptions.
 
Louise Mensch, a former Heat Street editor, and Claude Taylor, a former Bill Clinton White House volunteer coordinator, have built large followings by throwing out conspiracy theories and wild speculation about alleged  Trump-Russia ties. In August 2017, the Guardian reported:
Explosive allegations about Donald Trump made by online writers with large followings among Trump critics were based on bogus information from a hoaxer who falsely claimed to work in law enforcement.

Claude Taylor tweeted fake details of criminal inquiries into Trump that were invented by a source whose claim to work for the New York attorney general was not checked, according to emails seen by the Guardian. The allegations were endorsed as authentic and retweeted by his co-writer Louise Mensch.

The source’s false tips included an allegation, which has been aggressively circulated by Mensch and Taylor, that Trump’s inactive fashion model agency is under investigation by New York authorities for possible sex trafficking.

Despite their overt lack of credibility, they still maintain large followings on social media, and Mensch has been published in the New York Times op-ed section, and featured on MSNBC to discuss the Russia narrative. Other media pundits, such as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, have built large audiences with sensationalism, jingoism and false reporting on the Trump-Russia narrative. 

In June 2017, three CNN journalists resigned after publishing a fake story involving short-lived White House Press Secretary Anthony Scaramucci and a Russian investment bank under congressional investigation. Three months later, several mainstream outlets reported on a fake story that 21 states had their voting systems hacked by the Russians. The story was allegedly sourced from the Department of Homeland Security, but was later debunked by several states cited in the reports.

Two weeks ago, ABC News‘s Brian Ross’ breaking report that former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors included a false claim that Flynn was going to testify that he was instructed by Trump to communicate with the Russians during his campaign. Ross was suspended for four weeks due to the egregious error. 

For all the hysteria over fake news, several mainstream media outlets lend credence to the polarizing partisan rift on the subject when they willingly push and sensationalize fake stories, only to delay correcting them and scoff at the criticisms of their mistakes. The climate that has developed around the Faux Resistance and Trump-Russia narrative enables grifters, lazy reporting, and sensationalism to thrive. Rationality has been abandoned in favor of Cold War era rhetoric that has replaced constructive — and factual — ways to criticize the Trump Administration and the forces that enabled its ascendance into office. 

Doug Henwood Dispatches Hillary and Her New Book to Remainder Bin of History

I’m late getting to this review. It’s partly because, unlike most reviewers, I didn’t have a free pre-publication copy of Hillary’s awful book and had to pay good money for it myself. [Editor’s note: We’ll pay for it, but it could reduce your fee by a negligible amount. If anyone wants to pay for Doug’s book let him or me know.] And when I read it, I was overcome with boredom and despair and couldn’t imagine writing a standard review. But since I wrote a Harper’s cover story that turned into a book on Hillary I felt like I had to do it. But I’m not sure I can.

Were I to write a standard review, I might recall some of my history with HRC. When I started doing research for the Harper’s article in the summer of 2015, I was on a secret email list for liberal pundits called the Cabalist. I was recruited as an ideological diversity hire. Never a good fit from the first, relations between me and the Cabalisters deteriorated as I shared my feelings about their favored candidate. I said, ideology aside, she was a terrible candidate—a bad and widely un-liked politician, one whose poll numbers usually fell with increased exposure, with a million scandals just waiting to blow up at any minute. Add to that her miserable ideology—she believed in nothing but tweaking the status quo in profoundly tedious ways—and they might come to regret signing on to her still-unannounced campaign.

Saying this provoked intense fury. I was accused of enabling Ted Cruz (Trump was still a gleam in his own eye). When I asked them to convince me otherwise, they reacted with fury, but no answers. If these Democrats—mostly liberals, whatever it means to be a liberal today—whose business was making and analyzing political argument, including one who wrote a book about Hillary (or, more precisely, about her feelings about Hillary) couldn’t make a case for her, then who could?

I was right, of course. As was everything I subsequently wrote about her—the emptiness of her campaign, her shittiness as a politician, her fealty to convention, all of which contributed to her disgraceful loss to the abominable Trump.

Were I to write a real review, I might also point to Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes’ Shattered, the story of her dismal, meandering campaign and its hilarious depictions of her staff desperately trying to invent reasons for her running and coming up empty. That, and their neglect of traditional campaigning strategies like polling in crucial states and knocking on people’s doors and reliance instead on preposterous statistical models that turned out to be fantastically wrong.

Hillary raises some of these issues in What Happened only to deny them. She did have a reason for running, she assures us: because she loves to help people, particularly women and children. And she did have a viable campaign strategy—it’s just that no one noticed it and it proved unviable. She concedes she’s deeply unpopular and untrustworthy, but just can’t understand why. Several times she takes responsibility for the campaign’s mistakes—not an easy thing for her to do, as anyone past the intro level of Hillary Studies knows—but never for more than a sentence or three, as she quickly moves from the confessional mode to blaming Comey, the Russians, the emails, and misogyny. Nothing is ever really her fault; decks are always stacked against her.

A few words on the misogyny question: there’s no doubt that Hillary has suffered from loads of vile, sexist attacks over the decades. It’s hideous stuff. But she and her acolytes have used this to deflect any legitimate criticisms of her politics or personality. And her habit of making herself into the rightful heir of the long and admirable line of American feminist struggle since Seneca Falls is annoying and deceptive. There’s nothing feminist about having supported welfare reform, mass incarceration, and every episode of imperial war in modern American history.

Were I to write a real review, I could devote hundreds, even thousands of words to these matters, and countless others I haven’t even touched on. One could spend a paragraph or two analyzing a sentence like this: “I started calling policy experts, reading thick binders of memos, and making lists of problems that needed more thought.” I could make fun of the fact that she nicknamed her campaign van “Scooby.” Or mock her claim that she wrote this lifeless tome at her kitchen table.

But I don’t want to do that. What I want to do is draw attention to one arresting and widely overlooked passage in this dull and preposterously long book, the moment where she admits that maybe Bernie Sanders was onto something in his preference for “big, simple ideas” over position papers and binders full of memos. (“Simple” is rather dismissive, but I’ll let that slide.)

She actually says (though maybe it was her three ghostwriters): “Bernie proved again that it’s important to set lofty goals that people can organize around and dream about, even if it takes generations to achieve them.” Rejecting a generation of neoliberal orthodoxy, she continues:

Democrats should reevaluate a lot of our assumptions about which policies are politically viable. These trends make universal programs even more appealing than we previously thought. I mean programs like Social Security and Medicare, which benefit every American, as opposed to Medicaid, food stamps, and other initiatives targeted to the poor. Targeted programs may be more efficient and progressive, and that’s why during the primaries I criticized Bernie’s “ free college for all ” plan as providing wasteful taxpayer-funded giveaways to rich kids. But it’s precisely because they don’t benefit everyone that targeted programs are so easily stigmatized and demagogued…. Democrats should redouble our efforts to develop bold, creative ideas that offer broad-based benefits for the whole country.

Were I writing that real review, I’d ask “redouble” what efforts? Twice zero is still zero. But I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to say that buried in this soporific and dishonest book is an admission that the entire modern history of the Democratic Party—from the creation of the Democratic Leadership Council in the early 1990s, in which she was an active participant, onwards—was a mistake. All their targeted microinitiatives are weak tea next to ideas like “Medicare for all” and “free college.” I’ll take it.

And now I’m done with Hillary, as we all should be.

The Democrats’ Reckoning With The Clintons Is Long Overdue

Last week, Senator Kristen Gillibrand told the New York Times that Bill Clinton should have resigned in the wake of his affair with then-22 year old White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Bill Clinton’s legacy has been questioned recently given the various accusations of sexual harassment and assault he’s faced during his political career — which is viewed in particularly harsh light by the recent spotlight on prominent perpetrators of sexual misconduct.

Longtime Clinton Aide Philippe Reines lashed out at Gillibrand for the remark and Politico reported several Democratic figures were uncomfortable with her criticism of a “beloved figure.” Hillary Clinton swiftly pushed back in an interview on WABC radio. “That was a painful time not only in our marriage but in our country,” she said. “But it was investigated fully, it was addressed at the time, he was held accountable. That is very different than what people seem to be remembering from that period.”

Senator Gillibrand: What’s wrong with her? Why does she refuse to go down with sinking ship?

This historical revisionism afforded to the Clintons, from ignoring Bill Clinton’s own improprieties and failed neoliberal policies, to the constant excuses and scapegoats pushed under the bus by Hillary Clinton in regards to the 2016 election loss, frame the Clintons as celebrities rather than politicians. This shielding from criticism continues to serve as political ammunition for Republicans, who pivot to the Clintons to distract from their own transgressions.

The Clintons are no longer in political office, but Trump and Republicans continue to use Bill and Hillary as political punching bags to represent the Democratic Party and the left. Democrats need to stop wading into the battle by blindly defending the Clintons. That only serves the party establishment in its efforts to deflect calls for reform and its attempt to conflate criticism from progressives with that from the Republican Party.

Bill Clinton was not a good president for working class, middle class, and low income Americans. He presided over expanded mass incarceration through the 1994 crime bill, and increased poverty through welfare reform. He exploited the death penalty as a campaign tactic and sanctioned bribery in his post-presidency through exorbitant corporate speaking fees. His administration helped catalyze the opioid epidemic, he deregulated Wall Street by repealing Glass-Steagall and signing the Commodities Futures Modernization Act.

Hillary Clinton was not a good presidential candidate—a fact that should be obvious by her loss to the seemingly unelectable Donald Trump. Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan are disproportionately focused on in Clinton’s election autopsy because these states are her closest losses, but this framing is misleading because it misses just how many voters and states the Democratic Party lost in the 2016 election.

Clinton lost six states that Obama won in 2012: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, and Iowa — and add North Carolina if you look at what Obama won in 2008.

Criticism of the electoral college, voter suppression and undemocratic voting laws are worthy of discussion, but they should be dealt with in the context of expanding democracy around the country, not as a way of explaining a big loss. Yet the Democratic Party has obstructed calls to enact such reforms in its own primaries and in many states where they hold the political power to do so.

The books “Shattered” and “Hacks” — the latter ex-DNC Interim Chair Donna Brazile’s memoir — document the Clinton campaign’s arrogance and ineptitude from an insider perspective. But blind idolization of the Clintons remains prevalent in the Democratic Party.

The Clintons are the political opponents that Trump and Republicans dream of. On November 18, the president mocked Hillary by urging her to run again in 2020. This tactic helps him maintain core support even as his overall approval ratings continue to slip — and it works because the Clintons’ popularity is just as low. Their brand of politics is toxic with millions of voters across the country and helps the GOP keep its own approval rating from dropping off a cliff.

Establishment politics are increasingly being rejected by voters. The unpopularity of Trump and Republicans may translate to a blue wave of Democratic wins, but if the party fails to genuinely fight to improve the lives of Americans, another Trump victory, or something worse, is inevitable.

The Democrats' Reckoning With The Clintons Is Long Overdue

Last week, Senator Kristen Gillibrand told the New York Times that Bill Clinton should have resigned in the wake of his affair with then-22 year old White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Bill Clinton’s legacy has been questioned recently given the various accusations of sexual harassment and assault he’s faced during his political career — which is viewed in particularly harsh light by the recent spotlight on prominent perpetrators of sexual misconduct.

Longtime Clinton Aide Philippe Reines lashed out at Gillibrand for the remark and Politico reported several Democratic figures were uncomfortable with her criticism of a “beloved figure.” Hillary Clinton swiftly pushed back in an interview on WABC radio. “That was a painful time not only in our marriage but in our country,” she said. “But it was investigated fully, it was addressed at the time, he was held accountable. That is very different than what people seem to be remembering from that period.”

Senator Gillibrand: What’s wrong with her? Why does she refuse to go down with sinking ship?

This historical revisionism afforded to the Clintons, from ignoring Bill Clinton’s own improprieties and failed neoliberal policies, to the constant excuses and scapegoats pushed under the bus by Hillary Clinton in regards to the 2016 election loss, frame the Clintons as celebrities rather than politicians. This shielding from criticism continues to serve as political ammunition for Republicans, who pivot to the Clintons to distract from their own transgressions.

The Clintons are no longer in political office, but Trump and Republicans continue to use Bill and Hillary as political punching bags to represent the Democratic Party and the left. Democrats need to stop wading into the battle by blindly defending the Clintons. That only serves the party establishment in its efforts to deflect calls for reform and its attempt to conflate criticism from progressives with that from the Republican Party.

Bill Clinton was not a good president for working class, middle class, and low income Americans. He presided over expanded mass incarceration through the 1994 crime bill, and increased poverty through welfare reform. He exploited the death penalty as a campaign tactic and sanctioned bribery in his post-presidency through exorbitant corporate speaking fees. His administration helped catalyze the opioid epidemic, he deregulated Wall Street by repealing Glass-Steagall and signing the Commodities Futures Modernization Act.

Hillary Clinton was not a good presidential candidate—a fact that should be obvious by her loss to the seemingly unelectable Donald Trump. Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan are disproportionately focused on in Clinton’s election autopsy because these states are her closest losses, but this framing is misleading because it misses just how many voters and states the Democratic Party lost in the 2016 election.

Clinton lost six states that Obama won in 2012: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, and Iowa — and add North Carolina if you look at what Obama won in 2008.

Criticism of the electoral college, voter suppression and undemocratic voting laws are worthy of discussion, but they should be dealt with in the context of expanding democracy around the country, not as a way of explaining a big loss. Yet the Democratic Party has obstructed calls to enact such reforms in its own primaries and in many states where they hold the political power to do so.

The books “Shattered” and “Hacks” — the latter ex-DNC Interim Chair Donna Brazile’s memoir — document the Clinton campaign’s arrogance and ineptitude from an insider perspective. But blind idolization of the Clintons remains prevalent in the Democratic Party.

The Clintons are the political opponents that Trump and Republicans dream of. On November 18, the president mocked Hillary by urging her to run again in 2020. This tactic helps him maintain core support even as his overall approval ratings continue to slip — and it works because the Clintons’ popularity is just as low. Their brand of politics is toxic with millions of voters across the country and helps the GOP keep its own approval rating from dropping off a cliff.

Establishment politics are increasingly being rejected by voters. The unpopularity of Trump and Republicans may translate to a blue wave of Democratic wins, but if the party fails to genuinely fight to improve the lives of Americans, another Trump victory, or something worse, is inevitable.

What’s Wrong With Avocado Toast? Part II: Nothing, The Democratic Party Is The Problem

I just published a piece by Michael Brooks and David Slavick, with which I fundamentally disagree. I published it because they are both pals and brilliant, but their underlying premise is that the Democratic Party can be saved.

My view is that not only can it not be saved — it is a rancid institution beyond redemption or salvation — but hoping it can is a waste of time. Our only real hope is an independent movement outside the Democratic Party, that pushes it to the left while the movement establishes an independent identity and makes an enemies list of individuals — topped by the Clinton family — to be detained immediately upon our electoral (or other) triumph.

Also, my politics are not on the center-left, which is what Michael and David call for. I am on the Independent Libertarian Left, where most millennials lie, IMHO. I don’t want to save capitalism, I want to destroy it. Additionally climate change just fails to move me, though I guess that may put me out of step with millennials, scientists, adults and reality. So be it.

You’ll have to read Michael and David’s argument to get it’s full flavor, but let me also say that I generally like Bernie Sanders but he’s too old to lead the movement. Let him run for president, if he’s still alive, kicking and lucid, it will piss off the nearly indistinguishable Clinton/Obama clans as well as MSNBC and other pro-Democratic news outlets, but get real, the guy is ancient. He’ll die in office if he makes it that far and even if he lives, the country needs a political movement led by younger, darker and female leadership.

Anyway, I believe in freedom of speech, debate and disagreement and that’s why I published Michael and David’s story, but I just thought I’d put that out there.

What's Wrong With Avocado Toast? Part II: Nothing, The Democratic Party Is The Problem

I just published a piece by Michael Brooks and David Slavick, with which I fundamentally disagree. I published it because they are both pals and brilliant, but their underlying premise is that the Democratic Party can be saved.

My view is that not only can it not be saved — it is a rancid institution beyond redemption or salvation — but hoping it can is a waste of time. Our only real hope is an independent movement outside the Democratic Party, that pushes it to the left while the movement establishes an independent identity and makes an enemies list of individuals — topped by the Clinton family — to be detained immediately upon our electoral (or other) triumph.

Also, my politics are not on the center-left, which is what Michael and David call for. I am on the Independent Libertarian Left, where most millennials lie, IMHO. I don’t want to save capitalism, I want to destroy it. Additionally climate change just fails to move me, though I guess that may put me out of step with millennials, scientists, adults and reality. So be it.

You’ll have to read Michael and David’s argument to get it’s full flavor, but let me also say that I generally like Bernie Sanders but he’s too old to lead the movement. Let him run for president, if he’s still alive, kicking and lucid, it will piss off the nearly indistinguishable Clinton/Obama clans as well as MSNBC and other pro-Democratic news outlets, but get real, the guy is ancient. He’ll die in office if he makes it that far and even if he lives, the country needs a political movement led by younger, darker and female leadership.

Anyway, I believe in freedom of speech, debate and disagreement and that’s why I published Michael and David’s story, but I just thought I’d put that out there.

What’s Wrong With Avocado Toast? Part I: Empowering Millennials Is The Only Way To Save The Democratic Party

[Editor’s Note: I fundamentally disagree with the premise of this story. There is literally no way to save the Democratic Party. It is a rancid institution that is beyond salvation. Also, my politics are not on the center-left. They are on the Independent Libertarian Left, where most millennials lie, IMHO. I don’t want to save capitalism, I want to destroy it. Additionally climate change just fails to move me. See my companion piece to hear me expand on all these important topics.]

Millennials are the future and the future is now. This bland truism, which sounds like something Hillary Clinton surrogate Ezra Klein of Vox would say, is repeated almost as much as it is ignored in practice. Brands, marketers, politicos and strategists obsess over appealing to millennials and how to reach them all, but often ignoring the most pressing challenges that most millennials face.

The Democratic Party — with the exception of Bernie Sanders’s presidential run — is no exception. Millennials are appealed to on narrow grounds, with awkward cultural outreach and pale lip service to their concerns. 

Any future-orientedcenter-left politics needs to pursue bold policies on student debt relief, 21st century job security and climate change in order to click with millennials. Once these policies are established, campaigns will need the cultural intelligence to communicate effectively with a millennial audience-but the policies come first.

Millennials have much more radical conceptions of politics and economics than is generally believed, which shaped by their experiences. A majority of millennials fear — with good reason —  that they will never achieve the mythical “American Dream.”

A 2016 Harvard IOP poll found 51 percent of younger millennials oppose capitalism, 64 percent believe that women are disadvantaged in the workplace, and a plurality believe that they have no voice in government. The most recent poll found that millennials supported more protectionist trade policies.

Millennial conceptions of capitalism if left unaddressed will result in more and more radical politics on both right and left, away from the center. Reclaiming this generation for Democrats and ensuring political stability of our system as a whole will take more than a regurgitation of the existing Democratic platform. Policies that directly address the problems of modern capitalism are the only way to reclaim this generation.

The nonpartisan Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) compiled a comprehensive report on the role of millennials in the 2016 election. The CIRCLE report showed that Democrats had a huge demographic advantage amongst millennials in general, but lost that advantage amongst key millennial voting blocks. Nonetheless, had millennials been the sole demographic group voting in election, Hillary Clinton would have won in a landslide.

But that doesn’t not tell the whole story. Democrats had less millennial support than in any election since the beginning of the Obama era. While millennial support for Republicans has remained relatively unchanged between 2012 and 2016, Democrats lost 5 percent of total millennial voters in this time. They lost 5 percent amongst white millennials, 8 percent amongst African-American millennials, and 4 percent amongst Latino millennials.

A flurry of opinion pieces blamed this on everything from sexism to racism to “fake news” but none of these pieces account for the simplest explanation — the Democratic platform did not address the realities of the millennial generation.

The politics of “good enough” is not enough to win the future. A generation of Democratic politics has been shaped in reaction to an increasingly radicalized right. Even many of the boldest of the boomer generation have been jaded by compromise and the cognitive disenfranchisement of being the party of opposition rather than ideas.

This bunker mentality, of a generation beaten down by the culture wars, has created a world where hope, bravery and vision are the enemy of the preservation of the ever smaller portion of political terrain held by Democrats.

[Note: A version of this story was originally published earlier this year in the Spanish language journal “Comunicación i Política.”]

What's Wrong With Avocado Toast? Part I: Empowering Millennials Is The Only Way To Save The Democratic Party

[Editor’s Note: I fundamentally disagree with the premise of this story. There is literally no way to save the Democratic Party. It is a rancid institution that is beyond salvation. Also, my politics are not on the center-left. They are on the Independent Libertarian Left, where most millennials lie, IMHO. I don’t want to save capitalism, I want to destroy it. Additionally climate change just fails to move me. See my companion piece to hear me expand on all these important topics.]

Millennials are the future and the future is now. This bland truism, which sounds like something Hillary Clinton surrogate Ezra Klein of Vox would say, is repeated almost as much as it is ignored in practice. Brands, marketers, politicos and strategists obsess over appealing to millennials and how to reach them all, but often ignoring the most pressing challenges that most millennials face.

The Democratic Party — with the exception of Bernie Sanders’s presidential run — is no exception. Millennials are appealed to on narrow grounds, with awkward cultural outreach and pale lip service to their concerns. 

Any future-orientedcenter-left politics needs to pursue bold policies on student debt relief, 21st century job security and climate change in order to click with millennials. Once these policies are established, campaigns will need the cultural intelligence to communicate effectively with a millennial audience-but the policies come first.

Millennials have much more radical conceptions of politics and economics than is generally believed, which shaped by their experiences. A majority of millennials fear — with good reason —  that they will never achieve the mythical “American Dream.”

A 2016 Harvard IOP poll found 51 percent of younger millennials oppose capitalism, 64 percent believe that women are disadvantaged in the workplace, and a plurality believe that they have no voice in government. The most recent poll found that millennials supported more protectionist trade policies.

Millennial conceptions of capitalism if left unaddressed will result in more and more radical politics on both right and left, away from the center. Reclaiming this generation for Democrats and ensuring political stability of our system as a whole will take more than a regurgitation of the existing Democratic platform. Policies that directly address the problems of modern capitalism are the only way to reclaim this generation.

The nonpartisan Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) compiled a comprehensive report on the role of millennials in the 2016 election. The CIRCLE report showed that Democrats had a huge demographic advantage amongst millennials in general, but lost that advantage amongst key millennial voting blocks. Nonetheless, had millennials been the sole demographic group voting in election, Hillary Clinton would have won in a landslide.

But that doesn’t not tell the whole story. Democrats had less millennial support than in any election since the beginning of the Obama era. While millennial support for Republicans has remained relatively unchanged between 2012 and 2016, Democrats lost 5 percent of total millennial voters in this time. They lost 5 percent amongst white millennials, 8 percent amongst African-American millennials, and 4 percent amongst Latino millennials.

A flurry of opinion pieces blamed this on everything from sexism to racism to “fake news” but none of these pieces account for the simplest explanation — the Democratic platform did not address the realities of the millennial generation.

The politics of “good enough” is not enough to win the future. A generation of Democratic politics has been shaped in reaction to an increasingly radicalized right. Even many of the boldest of the boomer generation have been jaded by compromise and the cognitive disenfranchisement of being the party of opposition rather than ideas.

This bunker mentality, of a generation beaten down by the culture wars, has created a world where hope, bravery and vision are the enemy of the preservation of the ever smaller portion of political terrain held by Democrats.

[Note: A version of this story was originally published earlier this year in the Spanish language journal “Comunicación i Política.”]

Trump & Twitter: Whose Fingerprints Are On The President’s Blackberry?

For a good chunk of the past week, the media has been furiously pursuing a story about a December 2 tweet by Donald Trump (image above), in which our Dear Leader typed out, on his chubby little fingers, “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.”

This caused quite a furor, especially amongst #TheResistance types, because they claim, as a Slate article put it, that in doing so, “Trump may have admitted to something that could get him in trouble in the future because his tweet suggested he knew Flynn had lied to the FBI when he fired him.” The article was hopefully titled, “Did Trump Just Admit to Obstructing Justice on Twitter?”

Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff replied to Trump on Twitter, writing, “If that is true, Mr. President, why did you wait so long to fire Flynn? Why did you fail to act until his lies were publicly exposed? And why did you pressure Director Comey to ‘let this go’?” (Incidentally, Schiff is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which is actually pretty funny because sources have told me he’s a total moron. Indeed, I’m told that he’s even dumber than the typical member of congress.)

Then came news, as reported by the Washington Post, that it was Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, who drafted the tweet and not Trump Jong-un himself. I’d tell you more about the Post’s story but it’s not available online without a subscription so I only saw Slate‘s brief summary of it, and it’s too much of a hassle to read it for free by opening an Incognito window.

Anyway, everyone is talking about the story but as usual, no one is asking the right questions. So let me help out here.

Maybe Dowd is lying when he says he drafted the tweet, to protect the president. But that would be really dumb to do since he’s a lawyer and this is all part of Robert Mueller’s more-boring-than-watching-paint-dry RussiaGate investigation. So if Dowd made that up, he could have created a big problem for himself.

I have no way of knowing this but let’s assume Dowd is telling the truth, and he did effectively draft the tweet in question. That raises a host of issues and questions.

For example, what other tweets have gone out under the president’s name that he didn’t write? And who wrote them? Who else has had access to Trump’s Blackberry? Former White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon or the lunatic National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton, a ghostwriter of some renown?

Twitter is central to how the president communicates with the American people, sort of like FDR’s fireside chats. It was also central to his election victory. Some people cite Trump’s Twitter feed as evidence that he’s off his rocker, which is hard to gainsay.

Look, everyone suspects that most politicians’ Twitter feeds are largely ghostwritten, from Hillary Clinton to Ted Cruz to Bernie Sanders. But the president claims that Twitter is how he best communicates with the people, that it’s unfiltered Trump.

When Sarah Huckabee Sanders stands up, we all know she’s merely Trump’s spokeswoman. But this is different. It seems clear that when he was a businessman Trump was writing his own tweets, and on the campaign trail, too. When his aides threatened to take away his Blackberry to control his tweeting, Trump threw a temper tantrum like a 3-year-old. It was all in character and so it seemed genuine.

So what’s going on here? Are Dowd and others really writing Trump’s tweets? Is Trump actually occupied for a few hours a day running the country, and thus doesn’t have time to tweet like he used to?

Here’s the biggest question of all. If we can’t trust the integrity of Donald Trump’s loopy Twitter, what do we have left? Without that certainty, we are a nation of naked children lost in a storm.

Mr. President, it’s time for a Fireside Chat.

 

 

 

 

 

Trump & Twitter: Whose Fingerprints Are On The President's Blackberry?

For a good chunk of the past week, the media has been furiously pursuing a story about a December 2 tweet by Donald Trump (image above), in which our Dear Leader typed out, on his chubby little fingers, “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.”

This caused quite a furor, especially amongst #TheResistance types, because they claim, as a Slate article put it, that in doing so, “Trump may have admitted to something that could get him in trouble in the future because his tweet suggested he knew Flynn had lied to the FBI when he fired him.” The article was hopefully titled, “Did Trump Just Admit to Obstructing Justice on Twitter?”

Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff replied to Trump on Twitter, writing, “If that is true, Mr. President, why did you wait so long to fire Flynn? Why did you fail to act until his lies were publicly exposed? And why did you pressure Director Comey to ‘let this go’?” (Incidentally, Schiff is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which is actually pretty funny because sources have told me he’s a total moron. Indeed, I’m told that he’s even dumber than the typical member of congress.)

Then came news, as reported by the Washington Post, that it was Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, who drafted the tweet and not Trump Jong-un himself. I’d tell you more about the Post’s story but it’s not available online without a subscription so I only saw Slate‘s brief summary of it, and it’s too much of a hassle to read it for free by opening an Incognito window.

Anyway, everyone is talking about the story but as usual, no one is asking the right questions. So let me help out here.

Maybe Dowd is lying when he says he drafted the tweet, to protect the president. But that would be really dumb to do since he’s a lawyer and this is all part of Robert Mueller’s more-boring-than-watching-paint-dry RussiaGate investigation. So if Dowd made that up, he could have created a big problem for himself.

I have no way of knowing this but let’s assume Dowd is telling the truth, and he did effectively draft the tweet in question. That raises a host of issues and questions.

For example, what other tweets have gone out under the president’s name that he didn’t write? And who wrote them? Who else has had access to Trump’s Blackberry? Former White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon or the lunatic National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton, a ghostwriter of some renown?

Twitter is central to how the president communicates with the American people, sort of like FDR’s fireside chats. It was also central to his election victory. Some people cite Trump’s Twitter feed as evidence that he’s off his rocker, which is hard to gainsay.

Look, everyone suspects that most politicians’ Twitter feeds are largely ghostwritten, from Hillary Clinton to Ted Cruz to Bernie Sanders. But the president claims that Twitter is how he best communicates with the people, that it’s unfiltered Trump.

When Sarah Huckabee Sanders stands up, we all know she’s merely Trump’s spokeswoman. But this is different. It seems clear that when he was a businessman Trump was writing his own tweets, and on the campaign trail, too. When his aides threatened to take away his Blackberry to control his tweeting, Trump threw a temper tantrum like a 3-year-old. It was all in character and so it seemed genuine.

So what’s going on here? Are Dowd and others really writing Trump’s tweets? Is Trump actually occupied for a few hours a day running the country, and thus doesn’t have time to tweet like he used to?

Here’s the biggest question of all. If we can’t trust the integrity of Donald Trump’s loopy Twitter, what do we have left? Without that certainty, we are a nation of naked children lost in a storm.

Mr. President, it’s time for a Fireside Chat.

 

 

 

 

 

Whitey Bulger And The FBI: What Did Robert Mueller Know And When Did He Know It?

[Part 1 of this story ran on December 5. To read it click here.]

In May of 2011, days after Osama bin Laden was captured in Pakistan, that country’s Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, publicly insisted that his government had had no idea about where the terrorist leader had been hiding. When this claim was greeted with skepticism in certain quarters in America, Haqqani countered that his story was every bit as plausible as  the FBI’s claim that after 16 years, it had no idea where Most Wanted mobster “Whitey” Bulger was holed up.

At right around that same time, Angela Helton got a phone call from a friend who worked for the FBI. Would she like to make a video for the Bureau? the friend asked. Helton operated a one-woman media relations firm in South Portland, Maine, called Northeast Media Associates. As someone who always wanted to work for the FBI, who took inspiration from the TV show “Alias” and by her own admission had “a bit of a big mouth,” Helton would be the natural choice for the job.

“Of course! Hello!” she told her FBI friend, and soon Helton, whose clients included Modern Pest Services, had teamed up with Charlie Berg of Blackfly Media, a former collaborator on projects for the Portland Visitors Bureau and Madgirl World, to make what the Bureau called its first video public service announcement. The PSA, she and Berg were told, would be the latest weapon for nabbing the deadly fugitive. They were sworn to secrecy.

Agents swooped down on Berg’s home in Saco, Maine, with surveillance video and sheaves of old photographs of Bulger and his longtime companion, Catherine Greig. It was all very “Men in Black,” Berg later told a reporter for the Bangor Daily News. They soon got on like a house on fire, as the agents would take “finished video back to their superiors, run it up and down the chain, and email over revisions.” Finally, after toiling 11 to 14 hours a day, Helton, Berg and their bffs from the Bureau could rest. The PSA was ready.

On Monday, June 20, the FBI publicly announced the spot would run in 14 media markets beginning Tuesday, June 21. Less than 72 hours after that announcement, Bulger and Greig were in custody in Santa Monica, California.

Greig: Wanted.

The national press relayed news of the capture with almost as much thought-free fanfare as it would, six years later, the appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate the Trump campaign. But just as Mueller’s apparent long indifference to Bulger’s whereabouts deserves scrutiny, as seen in Part 1, so too does the Bureau’s lightning-quick resolution of the case, a mere seven weeks after President Obama surprisingly reappointed Mueller to lead the FBI beyond his 10-year congressionally limited term.

It’s a truism in journalism that for any big story, any scandal, the first 24 to 48 hours are key: whatever narrative takes hold then is likely to remain the story. The official story of Bulger’s capture, in general contour, goes as follows.

The Bureau’s June 20 presser and the PSA itself became news on many local TV stations, CNN and other cable networks as well as the Internet that Monday. On Tuesday, June 21, the PSA, which the FBI says it paid for, began to run during “The View,” “Dr. Oz” and other daytime television programs geared toward women.

The ad was 30 seconds long and focused on Catherine Greig. It showed photos from the 1990s and mentioned her extensive plastic surgery. It described her as “harboring” Whitey Bulger, and included pictures of them together, surveillance footage of Whitey and a reference to his violent temper.

In announcing capture of its elusive quarry, the FBI initially said little other than that the arrest came about as a result of a tip generated by the ad. It did not identify anything about the tipster, who stood to gain $100,000 for Greig and $2 million for Bulger.

According to Boston Special Agent in Charge Richard DesLauriers, the call came into the Bureau’s Los Angeles office on Tuesday at 8 PM Pacific time. The caller gave an exact address in Santa Monica. Just after 4 PM the next day, June 22, members of the FBI and the LAPD began conducting surveillance at the address. At about 5:45, having determined it was indeed Bulger’s apartment building, they lured him out and arrested him and then Greig.

The next day, WBUR radio in Boston reported that, according to “law enforcement sources,” the tip had come from a woman in Iceland who saw a report on CNN and immediately rang up.

The Boston Globe dispatched reporters to Iceland. In October, the paper reported that the woman was Anna Bjornsdottir (aka Anna Bjorn), a graphic designer, yoga instructor, animal lover, model, actress and Miss Iceland of 1974. As “one of the world’s most beautiful and successful models” in the 1970s, according to a People magazine profile, Bjorn had appeared in one of Noxzema’s “Take it off” shaving cream ads, as well as in movies and TV shows, including “More American Graffiti” and “Fantasy Island.” She and her second husband were dividing their time between Reykjavik and Santa Monica, where they lived near Bulger and Greig.

Anna Bjornsdottir in “The Sword and the Sorcerer.”

According to neighbors, Bjornsdottir bonded with Greig over their shared devotion to a stray cat. Miss Iceland didn’t win Miss Congeniality for nothing.

Unremarked during any of the breathless reporting at the time were a number of curiosities, not least that, by the FBI’s timeline, it would have been 4 AM in Reykjavik when Bjornsdottir happened to catch CNN’s news report on the FBI’s ad and lunged for the phone. As it turned out, of the hundreds of calls that the FBI says it received in response to the ad campaign, the only call from a Santa Monica resident was that one from the erstwhile, and faraway, Miss Iceland.

****

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Angela Helton exclaimed upon hearing the news that the ad she’d produced had had such stunning success. Her exuberant cry unwittingly summarized the response of those familiar with Whitey’s long history with the FBI, especially residents of the city of Boston.

Despite the suggestion in the Bureau’s statement that its eureka moment in cracking the case came when it decided to focus the search on Greig instead of Bulger, this was not the FBI’s first Greig-centered campaign. In May 2010, it took out an ad in “Plastic Surgery News,” an industry trade journal, which featured old photos of Greig and even the serial numbers of her breast implants.

News of that ad, the FBI’s first public effort of any kind in years, was greeted with derision in Boston, where its esoteric appeal was considered to be mainly an effort to convince the public that the FBI was actively seeking Bulger. Initially, the PSA approach was considered the same, doomed to fail but intended to convince the public that the FBI was still even interested.

After the first flush of excitement that the infamous mob boss had been caught, Boston reporters grew agitated. At a news conference in Boston they peppered Special Agent DesLauriers and federal prosecutor Carmen Ortiz with questions that quickly soured the feds’ triumphal mood. Because Whitey had previously been sighted in the LA area and was actually arrested there, why had the Bureau run the ad in locations like Biloxi and Milwaukee but not in Los Angeles? The official response – the ad ran “in California” (it did, in San Francisco and San Diego) – was not satisfactory. You run the ad in cities near a location where Whitey has been seen but not in the city itself?

And where were the booking photos? Although that question is audible throughout recordings of the press conference, Prosecutor Ortiz ignored it until it was the only one left. “We don’t release booking photos,” she brusquely replied. Although in some cases the Justice Department had not released booking photos (like that of former presidential candidate John Edwards arrested for campaign finance violations), the very same week of Bulger’s arrest the booking photos of two alleged New Jersey terrorists (Mohamed Alessa and Carlos Eduardo Almonte) were disseminated widely. Ortiz’s response only raised more questions. After all, no booking photos, presto, no possible comparison with the PSA.

At this point, the Iceland connection had not yet been reported, but the FBI got defensive. It released a statement refuting press reports that the tip initially received low priority, given the time lag between when the FBI got the call and when it deployed agents at Bulger’s address. It issued a fuller press release, noting that the PSA “focused on the 60-year-old Greig’s physical appearance, habits, and personality traits and…[had] other details including her love of animals.”

The PSA, though, is silent on Greig’s habits and personality. Beyond its 20-year-old images, it suggests nothing about the 60-year-old Greig’s appearance. It also makes no mention of her love of animals. It does include a single photograph of Greig and Bulger wearing huge sunglasses and walking a dog.

Perhaps the Bureau’s PR department is just shoddy and muddled up what the PSA actually contained and what was in its own press release of June 20. The latter mentioned that Greig, a former dental hygienist, was likely to have good teeth, that she was five foot six, had blue eyes, frequented beauty salons and “loves dogs and all kinds of animals.” None of those details, along with Whitey’s own enthusiasm for animals and books about Hitler, appear in the PSA.

So what are the odds that at 4 AM in Iceland, a yoga instructor who vacations in Santa Monica caught the CNN report, glimpsed Greig’s much younger face, zeroed in on the animal angle from what at best would have been a quick reference and immediately made the connection? This, while having no prior reason to associate the elderly couple with Bulger or organized crime.

What are the odds, moreover, that among Greig’s many neighbors – especially retirees who saw her and Bulger on a regular basis, interacted with them and were acutely familiar with the woman’s passion for stray cats – not one would have also seen the PSA on CNN and made the split-second connection?

In fact, those residents could not believe that their two neighbors were the notorious couple.  Their apartment building manager, who was quite friendly with Bulger and routinely interacted with him, never recognized the gangster, despite having attended Boston University. Miss Iceland is not known to have any Boston connection.

As incredible as all that seems, it is not as if the FBI had never previously received a tip about Bulger in Santa Monica. In 2008, after “America’s Most Wanted” aired a segment on the wanted criminal, a viewer called in saying he’d seen a man who looked like Whitey playing chess on the Santa Monica beachfront. The show’s creator, John Walsh, confirmed that the tip came in and was passed on to the FBI. The FBI did nothing.

In July of 2011 this fellow, Keith Messina of Las Vegas, complained to the Boston Herald: “They are saying someone in Iceland found Whitey? Who is that person? I found Whitey three years ago. I didn’t make the call for the reward. I just wanted the guy caught. But now the FBI is lying and saying the reward is going to Iceland. I saw the guy. I did the right thing and called. I left my name and number. I should be at least entitled to something.”

Walsh, no doubt protective of his access to the Bureau, took pains to say that Messina’s tip had no specifics, but the man never got a call from the Bureau to elaborate. And how specific would one need to be when, as it turned out, Bulger and Greig lived only a few blocks from the beach – and, incidentally, about five miles from the FBI’s Westwood office?

It was not until August 1, and then only after Reuters had filed an FOIA request, that the US Marshals Service released the mugshots. By that time the national media caravan had moved on, and national consciousness with it. In Boston, though, where Whitey’s story has legs to this day, the pictures were major news. Bulger, completely bald, bearded and looking more like a monk than a wiseguy, was indistinguishable from pictures on the PSA or the Most Wanted list. Lyndsey Cyr, the mother of his only child, said publicly that she would never have recognized him. Upon close and prolonged inspection, Greig’s nose and mouth bear a trace of her youthful photos, but the 30-second PSA gave its viewers no such time to linger.

It is worth mentioning that numerous studies on memory, facial recognition and eyewitness reliability have shown that people have an extraordinarily difficult time accurately identifying a person’s face, even when no significant time has passed. Again, what are the odds that a person caught unawares by a news report at 4 in the morning would accurately identify a face from 20-year-old photographs briefly glimpsed?

Anna Bjornsdottir got the $2 million for Bulger, according to the Boston Globe (the FBI says the full $2.1 million went to more than one person). She has never spoken publicly about the case. When confronted by Boston Globe reporters in Reykjavik, she fled into her apartment building. Her husband, Halldor Gudmundsson, a long time CEO of Iceland’s largest ad agency, has also been silent, except to send an email saying that Anna values her privacy.

She’s not likely to fear retribution, as reports in the Icelandic press indicate that she returned to visit her old haunts in Santa Monica even after her identity was disclosed. Whitey is in jail, officially a rat, hated by his former associates, so there is no danger there. Her story is worth additional media millions, yet she has not cashed in.

Although the official version of Whitey’s arrest was ultimately grudgingly accepted by Boston media, chiefly because they could never prove otherwise, many in Boston have never accepted it, and interest in anything Bulger persists. Dick Lehr is the co-author of the book “Black Mass,” and is also considered the gold standard of journalists following the Bulger saga. He followed up in 2013 with “Whitey: The Life of America’s Most Notorious Mob Boss.” There Lehr writes that an argument with Whitey over Bjornsdottir’s stated admiration for Barack Obama was an additional factor in her recognizing him. Bulger’s anger and subsequent refusal to acknowledge her reportedly made quite an impression on her.

While Whitey’s famous temper was mentioned in the PSA and his racist attitudes were legendary to those who already knew him, an argument over Barack Obama being translated into recognizing him as a crime boss from a 30-second ad sounds farfetched. How many elderly, cranky white men would have had exactly the same attitudes in 2011?

The superintendent of Bulger’s building, Joshua Bond, told Lehr about a similar run-in he’d had, but the dispute did not lead him to imagine he was fighting with a fugitive organized crime kingpin. Lehr never spoke personally to Anna Bjornsdottir, and has said that the Obama incident was confirmed by “sources.” While Bulger’s neighbors might have provided this information, it might also have come from law enforcement intent on convincing a skeptical public with information that can’t be disputed, understanding that the stray cat fable alone was a real stretch.   

The Bulger manhunt “was the most expensive in FBI history…whatever we asked for, we got,” according to a former Boston Police Department detective and member of the Bulger task force until 2003. That makes it hard to believe that, as the FBI told Lehr, the Bureau didn’t run the ad in Los Angeles because it couldn’t afford the media buy.

Whitey had been on the lam for sixteen years when all of a sudden the Bureau hired a tiny shop in Maine to produce an advertisement in a process that required breakneck speed. Why the urgency? Why suddenly work 11- to 14-hour days to produce a public service announcement? Politicians of both parties and the media at large have never fully grasped the depths of the Bulger-FBI scandal and the dark shadow it should cast on Bob Mueller’s reputation. Did Mueller’s confirmation meeting with Obama stimulate this rapid-fire publicity campaign? Had the Pakistani ambassador hit too close to home and taken away leverage in one of the US’s most complicated foreign policy relationships?

Nobody believes Pakistan’s government knew nothing about Osama Bin Laden’s lair. Why should anyone believe that the FBI knew nothing about Bulger’s retirement home location until a former beauty queen in Iceland picked up the phone?

The Powell Memo And The Birth Of The Washington Lobbying Empire

Whatever you think of RussiaGate or whether you believe Donald Trump should be impeached and/or rendered to a dark prison, I think we can all agree that the current investigation has revealed that Washington is overrun with overpaid, soulless, sleazy lobbyists. For example, I don’t know if recently indicted Paul Manafort is secretly an agent of Vladimir Putin, but he is definitely one of many, many DC lobbyists who make fat lobbying fees from corrupt foreign leaders — in his case, the former president of Ukraine, among others — and fail to properly disclose their activities.

How did this pathetic state of affairs arise? History is important, we all know but often forget, so I’m going to tell you — and it all can be traced back to a still relatively little-known memo written by former Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, when he was at the U.S.Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber was established in 1912 towards the end of William Howard Taft’s presidency. Little known facts: Taft was the tubbiest President in U.S. history, weighing over 350-pounds, and might have once gotten stuck in a bathtub of “pond-like dimensions.”

True or not, President Taft was keen to work with the business community, which ran somewhat counter to his predecessor, Teddy Roosevelt, who handpicked Taft to succeed him and continue his “progressive” reforms and agenda. Indeed, Taft’s coziness with big business ultimately played a hand in his epic third-place finish in the 1912 presidential election won by Woodrow Wilson.

The Chamber, though, survived and flourished. It helped establish the Federal Trade Commission in 1914 and, half a century later, advocated for the creation of the Department of Transportation. In 1994, the Chamber played a vital role in passing NAFTA and by 2009 spent more than $65 million on lobbying. This year it pushed for bills that block consumers from filing class action lawsuits, shield pharmaceutical and healthcare providers from liability for negligence, and gut the EPA’s current rules on lead, drinking water and clean air.

In 1971, Powell was the chair of the Chamber’s Education Committee and an attorney serving on the boards of several corporations. On August 23 of that year, he wrote a memo to the Chamber’s then-director, Eugene Sydnor. Two months later Powell was confirmed to the Supreme Court as a Richard Nixon appointee; his memo was later leaked to the syndicated newspaper columnist Jack Anderson.

Thanks, dick.

In the memo, Powell lays out a detailed strategy for advancing “free enterprise” at the expense of labor. In response, the National Association of Manufacturers moved their offices from New York to Washington and the “K Street” lobbying complex was born.

The number of businesses with public affairs offices in Washington grew from a mere 100 in 1968 to well over 500 by 1978. The growth in registered lobbyists was also explosive. In 1971, only 175 corporations retained lobbyists; a decade later 2,500 did.

What followed, predictably, has been a weakening of labor rights and consumer protections, and, more broadly, the destruction of the old New Deal coalition and its replacement with a neoliberal economy which funnels money upwards in a ruthlessly cruel and efficient manner.

Essentially, businesses discovered that if they banded together, by forming coalitions, they could effectively pass more or less any legislation desired, and fend off most regulation. Where they could not deter regulation entirely, they won control through regulatory capture. In other words, corporations employ bribes, including political contributions and highly-paid revolving door jobs for favored politicians and staffers.

During the Clinton administration, for example, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and his top appointees all came from the financial industry — and returned there after helping destroy banking regulations, especially the hated 1933 Depression era Glass-Steagall Act, and grossly enriching Wall Street. We have the same situation now with revolving door appointees from the telecommunications industry working at the FCC to overturn Net Neutrality regulation and generally fuck the citizenry before they return home to richly-paid jobs at Comcast, Verizon and other firms who will profit from their government service.

Corporate interests also realized that by increasing political campaign contributions — at a time when campaigns were becoming more expensive due to television advertising and the like — they could purchase a more receptive congress. Between 1970 and 1980, campaign contributions grew fivefold.

Not surprisingly, this is where we first begin to see the steady shift in the Democratic Party, away from labor unions and towards corporate power. Indeed, by the 1980s, unions accounted for less than a quarter of all PAC contributions.

At the same time, campaign law was being gutted. The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 and 1974 sought to “restrain personal contributions,” establish specific “ceilings for media expenditures,” and mandate “full public disclosure of campaign receipts and disbursements.”

However, in Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court destroyed several key provisions of the Act on the grounds that those provisions violated First Amendment rights. The Court concluded  that limitations on a candidate’s spending and total campaign expenses violated his or her right to free expression. The argument was vaguely centered on the concept of money as a form of free speech. (An argument later expanded on in the Citizens United decision.) Suffice it to say, Justice Powell joined the majority’s opinion.

In the wake of Justice Powell, we now have even more explicitly pro-business judicial activism. Powell embraced the Chamber’s position in 53 percent of relevant cases he heard.

Under Chief Justice Roberts, that number has increased to over 69 percent. The Supreme Court’s conservative faction now rules in step with the Chamber in 80% of its cases. And it was the Roberts court that approved Citizens United, the landmark ruling that forever memorialized money as being a form of free speech.

Karl Marx once said the state was “nothing but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.” And he didn’t even live to see the Powell Memo.

Marx: Prescient doesn’t come close.

What follows is the full and unadulterated text of the Powell Memo, which Washington Babylon is publishing as a public service (and so you’ll always know where to find a copy if you get into an argument at a cocktail party).

Confidential Memorandum: Attack of American Free Enterprise System

DATE: August 23, 1971
TO: Mr. Eugene B. Sydnor, Jr., Chairman, Education Committee, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
FROM: Lewis F. Powell, Jr.

This memorandum is submitted at your request as a basis for the discussion on August 24 with Mr. Booth (executive vice president) and others at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The purpose is to identify the problem, and suggest possible avenues of action for further consideration.

Dimensions of the Attack

No thoughtful person can question that the American economic system is under broad attack. This varies in scope, intensity, in the techniques employed, and in the level of visibility.

There always have been some who opposed the American system, and preferred socialism or some form of statism (communism or fascism). Also, there always have been critics of the system, whose criticism has been wholesome and constructive so long as the objective was to improve rather than to subvert or destroy.

But what now concerns us is quite new in the history of America. We are not dealing with sporadic or isolated attacks from a relatively few extremists or even from the minority socialist cadre. Rather, the assault on the enterprise system is broadly based and consistently pursued. It is gaining momentum and converts.

Sources of the Attack

The sources are varied and diffused. They include, not unexpectedly, the Communists, New Leftists and other revolutionaries who would destroy the entire system, both political and economic. These extremists of the left are far more numerous, better financed, and increasingly are more welcomed and encouraged by other elements of society, than ever before in our history. But they remain a small minority, and are not yet the principal cause for concern.

The most disquieting voices joining the chorus of criticism come from perfectly respectable elements of society: from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians. In most of these groups the movement against the system is participated in only by minorities. Yet, these often are the most articulate, the most vocal, the most prolific in their writing and speaking.

Moreover, much of the media-for varying motives and in varying degrees-either voluntarily accords unique publicity to these “attackers,” or at least allows them to exploit the media for their purposes. This is especially true of television, which now plays such a predominant role in shaping the thinking, attitudes and emotions of our people.

One of the bewildering paradoxes of our time is the extent to which the enterprise system tolerates, if not participates in, its own destruction.

The campuses from which much of the criticism emanates are supported by (i) tax funds generated largely from American business, and (ii) contributions from capital funds controlled or generated by American business. The boards of trustees of our universities overwhelmingly are composed of men and women who are leaders in the system.

Most of the media, including the national TV systems, are owned and theoretically controlled by corporations which depend upon profits, and the enterprise system to survive.

Tone of the Attack

This memorandum is not the place to document in detail the tone, character, or intensity of the attack. The following quotations will suffice to give one a general idea:

William Kunstler, warmly welcomed on campuses and listed in a recent student poll as the “American lawyer most admired,” incites audiences as follows:

“You must learn to fight in the streets, to revolt, to shoot guns. We will learn to do all of the things that property owners fear.”2 The New Leftists who heed Kunstler’s advice increasingly are beginning to act — not just against military recruiting offices and manufacturers of munitions, but against a variety of businesses: “Since February, 1970, branches (of Bank of America) have been attacked 39 times, 22 times with explosive devices and 17 times with fire bombs or by arsonists.”3 Although New Leftist spokesmen are succeeding in radicalizing thousands of the young, the greater cause for concern is the hostility of respectable liberals and social reformers. It is the sum total of their views and influence which could indeed fatally weaken or destroy the system.

A chilling description of what is being taught on many of our campuses was written by Stewart Alsop:

“Yale, like every other major college, is graduating scores of bright young men who are practitioners of ‘the politics of despair.’ These young men despise the American political and economic system . . . (their) minds seem to be wholly closed. They live, not by rational discussion, but by mindless slogans.”4 A recent poll of students on 12 representative campuses reported that: “Almost half the students favored socialization of basic U.S. industries.”5

A visiting professor from England at Rockford College gave a series of lectures entitled “The Ideological War Against Western Society,” in which he documents the extent to which members of the intellectual community are waging ideological warfare against the enterprise system and the values of western society. In a foreword to these lectures, famed Dr. Milton Friedman of Chicago warned: “It (is) crystal clear that the foundations of our free society are under wide-ranging and powerful attack — not by Communist or any other conspiracy but by misguided individuals parroting one another and unwittingly serving ends they would never intentionally promote.”6

Perhaps the single most effective antagonist of American business is Ralph Nader, who — thanks largely to the media — has become a legend in his own time and an idol of millions of Americans. A recent article in Fortune speaks of Nader as follows:

“The passion that rules in him — and he is a passionate man — is aimed at smashing utterly the target of his hatred, which is corporate power. He thinks, and says quite bluntly, that a great many corporate executives belong in prison — for defrauding the consumer with shoddy merchandise, poisoning the food supply with chemical additives, and willfully manufacturing unsafe products that will maim or kill the buyer. He emphasizes that he is not talking just about ‘fly-by-night hucksters’ but the top management of blue chip business.”7

A frontal assault was made on our government, our system of justice, and the free enterprise system by Yale Professor Charles Reich in his widely publicized book: “The Greening of America,” published last winter.

The foregoing references illustrate the broad, shotgun attack on the system itself. There are countless examples of rifle shots which undermine confidence and confuse the public. Favorite current targets are proposals for tax incentives through changes in depreciation rates and investment credits. These are usually described in the media as “tax breaks,” “loop holes” or “tax benefits” for the benefit of business. As viewed by a columnist in the Post, such tax measures would benefit “only the rich, the owners of big companies.”8

It is dismaying that many politicians make the same argument that tax measures of this kind benefit only “business,” without benefit to “the poor.” The fact that this is either political demagoguery or economic illiteracy is of slight comfort. This setting of the “rich” against the “poor,” of business against the people, is the cheapest and most dangerous kind of politics.

The Apathy and Default of Business

What has been the response of business to this massive assault upon its fundamental economics, upon its philosophy, upon its right to continue to manage its own affairs, and indeed upon its integrity?

The painfully sad truth is that business, including the boards of directors’ and the top executives of corporations great and small and business organizations at all levels, often have responded — if at all — by appeasement, ineptitude and ignoring the problem. There are, of course, many exceptions to this sweeping generalization. But the net effect of such response as has been made is scarcely visible.

In all fairness, it must be recognized that businessmen have not been trained or equipped to conduct guerrilla warfare with those who propagandize against the system, seeking insidiously and constantly to sabotage it. The traditional role of business executives has been to manage, to produce, to sell, to create jobs, to make profits, to improve the standard of living, to be community leaders, to serve on charitable and educational boards, and generally to be good citizens. They have performed these tasks very well indeed.

But they have shown little stomach for hard-nose contest with their critics, and little skill in effective intellectual and philosophical debate.

A column recently carried by the Wall Street Journal was entitled: “Memo to GM: Why Not Fight Back?”9 Although addressed to GM by name, the article was a warning to all American business. Columnist St. John said:

“General Motors, like American business in general, is ‘plainly in trouble’ because intellectual bromides have been substituted for a sound intellectual exposition of its point of view.” Mr. St. John then commented on the tendency of business leaders to compromise with and appease critics. He cited the concessions which Nader wins from management, and spoke of “the fallacious view many businessmen take toward their critics.” He drew a parallel to the mistaken tactics of many college administrators: “College administrators learned too late that such appeasement serves to destroy free speech, academic freedom and genuine scholarship. One campus radical demand was conceded by university heads only to be followed by a fresh crop which soon escalated to what amounted to a demand for outright surrender.”

One need not agree entirely with Mr. St. John’s analysis. But most observers of the American scene will agree that the essence of his message is sound. American business “plainly in trouble”; the response to the wide range of critics has been ineffective, and has included appeasement; the time has come — indeed, it is long overdue — for the wisdom, ingenuity and resources of American business to be marshalled against those who would destroy it.

Responsibility of Business Executives

What specifically should be done? The first essential — a prerequisite to any effective action — is for businessmen to confront this problem as a primary responsibility of corporate management.

The overriding first need is for businessmen to recognize that the ultimate issue may be survival — survival of what we call the free enterprise system, and all that this means for the strength and prosperity of America and the freedom of our people.

The day is long past when the chief executive officer of a major corporation discharges his responsibility by maintaining a satisfactory growth of profits, with due regard to the corporation’s public and social responsibilities. If our system is to survive, top management must be equally concerned with protecting and preserving the system itself. This involves far more than an increased emphasis on “public relations” or “governmental affairs” — two areas in which corporations long have invested substantial sums.

A significant first step by individual corporations could well be the designation of an executive vice president (ranking with other executive VP’s) whose responsibility is to counter-on the broadest front-the attack on the enterprise system. The public relations department could be one of the foundations assigned to this executive, but his responsibilities should encompass some of the types of activities referred to subsequently in this memorandum. His budget and staff should be adequate to the task.

Possible Role of the Chamber of Commerce

But independent and uncoordinated activity by individual corporations, as important as this is, will not be sufficient. Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.

Moreover, there is the quite understandable reluctance on the part of any one corporation to get too far out in front and to make itself too visible a target.

The role of the National Chamber of Commerce is therefore vital. Other national organizations (especially those of various industrial and commercial groups) should join in the effort, but no other organizations appear to be as well situated as the Chamber. It enjoys a strategic position, with a fine reputation and a broad base of support. Also — and this is of immeasurable merit — there are hundreds of local Chambers of Commerce which can play a vital supportive role.

It hardly need be said that before embarking upon any program, the Chamber should study and analyze possible courses of action and activities, weighing risks against probable effectiveness and feasibility of each. Considerations of cost, the assurance of financial and other support from members, adequacy of staffing and similar problems will all require the most thoughtful consideration.

The Campus

The assault on the enterprise system was not mounted in a few months. It has gradually evolved over the past two decades, barely perceptible in its origins and benefiting (sic) from a gradualism that provoked little awareness much less any real reaction.

Although origins, sources and causes are complex and interrelated, and obviously difficult to identify without careful qualification, there is reason to believe that the campus is the single most dynamic source. The social science faculties usually include members who are unsympathetic to the enterprise system. They may range from a Herbert Marcuse, Marxist faculty member at the University of California at San Diego, and convinced socialists, to the ambivalent liberal critic who finds more to condemn than to commend. Such faculty members need not be in a majority. They are often personally attractive and magnetic; they are stimulating teachers, and their controversy attracts student following; they are prolific writers and lecturers; they author many of the textbooks, and they exert enormous influence — far out of proportion to their numbers — on their colleagues and in the academic world.

Social science faculties (the political scientist, economist, sociologist and many of the historians) tend to be liberally oriented, even when leftists are not present. This is not a criticism per se, as the need for liberal thought is essential to a balanced viewpoint. The difficulty is that “balance” is conspicuous by its absence on many campuses, with relatively few members being of conservatives or moderate persuasion and even the relatively few often being less articulate and aggressive than their crusading colleagues.

This situation extending back many years and with the imbalance gradually worsening, has had an enormous impact on millions of young American students. In an article in Barron’s Weekly, seeking an answer to why so many young people are disaffected even to the point of being revolutionaries, it was said: “Because they were taught that way.”10 Or, as noted by columnist Stewart Alsop, writing about his alma mater: “Yale, like every other major college, is graduating scores’ of bright young men … who despise the American political and economic system.”

As these “bright young men,” from campuses across the country, seek opportunities to change a system which they have been taught to distrust — if not, indeed “despise” — they seek employment in the centers of the real power and influence in our country, namely: (i) with the news media, especially television; (ii) in government, as “staffers” and consultants at various levels; (iii) in elective politics; (iv) as lecturers and writers, and (v) on the faculties at various levels of education.

Many do enter the enterprise system — in business and the professions — and for the most part they quickly discover the fallacies of what they have been taught. But those who eschew the mainstream of the system often remain in key positions of influence where they mold public opinion and often shape governmental action. In many instances, these “intellectuals” end up in regulatory agencies or governmental departments with large authority over the business system they do not believe in.

If the foregoing analysis is approximately sound, a priority task of business — and organizations such as the Chamber — is to address the campus origin of this hostility. Few things are more sanctified in American life than academic freedom. It would be fatal to attack this as a principle. But if academic freedom is to retain the qualities of “openness,” “fairness” and “balance” — which are essential to its intellectual significance — there is a great opportunity for constructive action. The thrust of such action must be to restore the qualities just mentioned to the academic communities.

What Can Be Done About the Campus

The ultimate responsibility for intellectual integrity on the campus must remain on the administrations and faculties of our colleges and universities. But organizations such as the Chamber can assist and activate constructive change in many ways, including the following:

Staff of Scholars

The Chamber should consider establishing a staff of highly qualified scholars in the social sciences who do believe in the system. It should include several of national reputation whose authorship would be widely respected — even when disagreed with.

Staff of Speakers

There also should be a staff of speakers of the highest competency. These might include the scholars, and certainly those who speak for the Chamber would have to articulate the product of the scholars.

Speaker’s Bureau

In addition to full-time staff personnel, the Chamber should have a Speaker’s Bureau which should include the ablest and most effective advocates from the top echelons of American business.

Evaluation of Textbooks

The staff of scholars (or preferably a panel of independent scholars) should evaluate social science textbooks, especially in economics, political science and sociology. This should be a continuing program.

The objective of such evaluation should be oriented toward restoring the balance essential to genuine academic freedom. This would include assurance of fair and factual treatment of our system of government and our enterprise system, its accomplishments, its basic relationship to individual rights and freedoms, and comparisons with the systems of socialism, fascism and communism. Most of the existing textbooks have some sort of comparisons, but many are superficial, biased and unfair.

We have seen the civil rights movement insist on re-writing many of the textbooks in our universities and schools. The labor unions likewise insist that textbooks be fair to the viewpoints of organized labor. Other interested citizens groups have not hesitated to review, analyze and criticize textbooks and teaching materials. In a democratic society, this can be a constructive process and should be regarded as an aid to genuine academic freedom and not as an intrusion upon it.

If the authors, publishers and users of textbooks know that they will be subjected — honestly, fairly and thoroughly — to review and critique by eminent scholars who believe in the American system, a return to a more rational balance can be expected.

Equal Time on the Campus

The Chamber should insist upon equal time on the college speaking circuit. The FBI publishes each year a list of speeches made on college campuses by avowed Communists. The number in 1970 exceeded 100. There were, of course, many hundreds of appearances by leftists and ultra liberals who urge the types of viewpoints indicated earlier in this memorandum. There was no corresponding representation of American business, or indeed by individuals or organizations who appeared in support of the American system of government and business.

Every campus has its formal and informal groups which invite speakers. Each law school does the same thing. Many universities and colleges officially sponsor lecture and speaking programs. We all know the inadequacy of the representation of business in the programs.

It will be said that few invitations would be extended to Chamber speakers.11 This undoubtedly would be true unless the Chamber aggressively insisted upon the right to be heard — in effect, insisted upon “equal time.” University administrators and the great majority of student groups and committees would not welcome being put in the position publicly of refusing a forum to diverse views, indeed, this is the classic excuse for allowing Communists to speak.

The two essential ingredients are (i) to have attractive, articulate and well-informed speakers; and (ii) to exert whatever degree of pressure — publicly and privately — may be necessary to assure opportunities to speak. The objective always must be to inform and enlighten, and not merely to propagandize.

Balancing of Faculties

Perhaps the most fundamental problem is the imbalance of many faculties. Correcting this is indeed a long-range and difficult project. Yet, it should be undertaken as a part of an overall program. This would mean the urging of the need for faculty balance upon university administrators and boards of trustees.

The methods to be employed require careful thought, and the obvious pitfalls must be avoided. Improper pressure would be counterproductive. But the basic concepts of balance, fairness and truth are difficult to resist, if properly presented to boards of trustees, by writing and speaking, and by appeals to alumni associations and groups.

This is a long road and not one for the fainthearted. But if pursued with integrity and conviction it could lead to a strengthening of both academic freedom on the campus and of the values which have made America the most productive of all societies.

Graduate Schools of Business

The Chamber should enjoy a particular rapport with the increasingly influential graduate schools of business. Much that has been suggested above applies to such schools.

Should not the Chamber also request specific courses in such schools dealing with the entire scope of the problem addressed by this memorandum? This is now essential training for the executives of the future.

Secondary Education

While the first priority should be at the college level, the trends mentioned above are increasingly evidenced in the high schools. Action programs, tailored to the high schools and similar to those mentioned, should be considered. The implementation thereof could become a major program for local chambers of commerce, although the control and direction — especially the quality control — should be retained by the National Chamber.

What Can Be Done About the Public?

Reaching the campus and the secondary schools is vital for the long-term. Reaching the public generally may be more important for the shorter term. The first essential is to establish the staffs of eminent scholars, writers and speakers, who will do the thinking, the analysis, the writing and the speaking. It will also be essential to have staff personnel who are thoroughly familiar with the media, and how most effectively to communicate with the public. Among the more obvious means are the following:

Television

The national television networks should be monitored in the same way that textbooks should be kept under constant surveillance. This applies not merely to so-called educational programs (such as “Selling of the Pentagon”), but to the daily “news analysis” which so often includes the most insidious type of criticism of the enterprise system.12 Whether this criticism results from hostility or economic ignorance, the result is the gradual erosion of confidence in “business” and free enterprise.

This monitoring, to be effective, would require constant examination of the texts of adequate samples of programs. Complaints — to the media and to the Federal Communications Commission — should be made promptly and strongly when programs are unfair or inaccurate.

Equal time should be demanded when appropriate. Effort should be made to see that the forum-type programs (the Today Show, Meet the Press, etc.) afford at least as much opportunity for supporters of the American system to participate as these programs do for those who attack it.

Other Media

Radio and the press are also important, and every available means should be employed to challenge and refute unfair attacks, as well as to present the affirmative case through these media.

The Scholarly Journals

It is especially important for the Chamber’s “faculty of scholars” to publish. One of the keys to the success of the liberal and leftist faculty members has been their passion for “publication” and “lecturing.” A similar passion must exist among the Chamber’s scholars.

Incentives might be devised to induce more “publishing” by independent scholars who do believe in the system.

There should be a fairly steady flow of scholarly articles presented to a broad spectrum of magazines and periodicals — ranging from the popular magazines (Life, Look, Reader’s Digest, etc.) to the more intellectual ones (Atlantic, Harper’s, Saturday Review, New York, etc.)13 and to the various professional journals.

Books, Paperbacks and Pamphlets

The news stands — at airports, drugstores, and elsewhere — are filled with paperbacks and pamphlets advocating everything from revolution to erotic free love. One finds almost no attractive, well-written paperbacks or pamphlets on “our side.” It will be difficult to compete with an Eldridge Cleaver or even a Charles Reich for reader attention, but unless the effort is made — on a large enough scale and with appropriate imagination to assure some success — this opportunity for educating the public will be irretrievably lost.

Paid Advertisements

Business pays hundreds of millions of dollars to the media for advertisements. Most of this supports specific products; much of it supports institutional image making; and some fraction of it does support the system. But the latter has been more or less tangential, and rarely part of a sustained, major effort to inform and enlighten the American people.

If American business devoted only 10% of its total annual advertising budget to this overall purpose, it would be a statesman-like expenditure.

The Neglected Political Arena

In the final analysis, the payoff — short-of revolution — is what government does. Business has been the favorite whipping-boy of many politicians for many years. But the measure of how far this has gone is perhaps best found in the anti-business views now being expressed by several leading candidates for President of the United States.

It is still Marxist doctrine that the “capitalist” countries are controlled by big business. This doctrine, consistently a part of leftist propaganda all over the world, has a wide public following among Americans.

Yet, as every business executive knows, few elements of American society today have as little influence in government as the American businessman, the corporation, or even the millions of corporate stockholders. If one doubts this, let him undertake the role of “lobbyist” for the business point of view before Congressional committees. The same situation obtains in the legislative halls of most states and major cities. One does not exaggerate to say that, in terms of political influence with respect to the course of legislation and government action, the American business executive is truly the “forgotten man.”

Current examples of the impotency of business, and of the near-contempt with which businessmen’s views are held, are the stampedes by politicians to support almost any legislation related to “consumerism” or to the “environment.”

Politicians reflect what they believe to be majority views of their constituents. It is thus evident that most politicians are making the judgment that the public has little sympathy for the businessman or his viewpoint.

The educational programs suggested above would be designed to enlighten public thinking — not so much about the businessman and his individual role as about the system which he administers, and which provides the goods, services and jobs on which our country depends.

But one should not postpone more direct political action, while awaiting the gradual change in public opinion to be effected through education and information. Business must learn the lesson, long ago learned by labor and other self-interest groups. This is the lesson that political power is necessary; that such power must be assidously (sic) cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination — without embarrassment and without the reluctance which has been so characteristic of American business.

As unwelcome as it may be to the Chamber, it should consider assuming a broader and more vigorous role in the political arena.

Neglected Opportunity in the Courts

American business and the enterprise system have been affected as much by the courts as by the executive and legislative branches of government. Under our constitutional system, especially with an activist-minded Supreme Court, the judiciary may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change.

Other organizations and groups, recognizing this, have been far more astute in exploiting judicial action than American business. Perhaps the most active exploiters of the judicial system have been groups ranging in political orientation from “liberal” to the far left.

The American Civil Liberties Union is one example. It initiates or intervenes in scores of cases each year, and it files briefs amicus curiae in the Supreme Court in a number of cases during each term of that court. Labor unions, civil rights groups and now the public interest law firms are extremely active in the judicial arena. Their success, often at business’ expense, has not been inconsequential.

This is a vast area of opportunity for the Chamber, if it is willing to undertake the role of spokesman for American business and if, in turn, business is willing to provide the funds.

As with respect to scholars and speakers, the Chamber would need a highly competent staff of lawyers. In special situations it should be authorized to engage, to appear as counsel amicus in the Supreme Court, lawyers of national standing and reputation. The greatest care should be exercised in selecting the cases in which to participate, or the suits to institute. But the opportunity merits the necessary effort.

Neglected Stockholder Power

The average member of the public thinks of “business” as an impersonal corporate entity, owned by the very rich and managed by over-paid executives. There is an almost total failure to appreciate that “business” actually embraces — in one way or another — most Americans. Those for whom business provides jobs, constitute a fairly obvious class. But the 20 million stockholders — most of whom are of modest means — are the real owners, the real entrepreneurs, the real capitalists under our system. They provide the capital which fuels the economic system which has produced the highest standard of living in all history. Yet, stockholders have been as ineffectual as business executives in promoting a genuine understanding of our system or in exercising political influence.

The question which merits the most thorough examination is how can the weight and influence of stockholders — 20 million voters — be mobilized to support (i) an educational program and (ii) a political action program.

Individual corporations are now required to make numerous reports to shareholders. Many corporations also have expensive “news” magazines which go to employees and stockholders. These opportunities to communicate can be used far more effectively as educational media.

The corporation itself must exercise restraint in undertaking political action and must, of course, comply with applicable laws. But is it not feasible — through an affiliate of the Chamber or otherwise — to establish a national organization of American stockholders and give it enough muscle to be influential?

A More Aggressive Attitude

Business interests — especially big business and their national trade organizations — have tried to maintain low profiles, especially with respect to political action.

As suggested in the Wall Street Journal article, it has been fairly characteristic of the average business executive to be tolerant — at least in public — of those who attack his corporation and the system. Very few businessmen or business organizations respond in kind. There has been a disposition to appease; to regard the opposition as willing to compromise, or as likely to fade away in due time.

Business has shunted confrontation politics. Business, quite understandably, has been repelled by the multiplicity of non-negotiable “demands” made constantly by self-interest groups of all kinds.

While neither responsible business interests, nor the United States Chamber of Commerce, would engage in the irresponsible tactics of some pressure groups, it is essential that spokesmen for the enterprise system — at all levels and at every opportunity — be far more aggressive than in the past.

There should be no hesitation to attack the Naders, the Marcuses and others who openly seek destruction of the system. There should not be the slightest hesitation to press vigorously in all political arenas for support of the enterprise system. Nor should there be reluctance to penalize politically those who oppose it.

Lessons can be learned from organized labor in this respect. The head of the AFL-CIO may not appeal to businessmen as the most endearing or public-minded of citizens. Yet, over many years the heads of national labor organizations have done what they were paid to do very effectively. They may not have been beloved, but they have been respected — where it counts the most — by politicians, on the campus, and among the media.

It is time for American business — which has demonstrated the greatest capacity in all history to produce and to influence consumer decisions — to apply their great talents vigorously to the preservation of the system itself.

The Cost

The type of program described above (which includes a broadly based combination of education and political action), if undertaken long term and adequately staffed, would require far more generous financial support from American corporations than the Chamber has ever received in the past. High level management participation in Chamber affairs also would be required.

The staff of the Chamber would have to be significantly increased, with the highest quality established and maintained. Salaries would have to be at levels fully comparable to those paid key business executives and the most prestigious faculty members. Professionals of the great skill in advertising and in working with the media, speakers, lawyers and other specialists would have to be recruited.

It is possible that the organization of the Chamber itself would benefit from restructuring. For example, as suggested by union experience, the office of President of the Chamber might well be a full-time career position. To assure maximum effectiveness and continuity, the chief executive officer of the Chamber should not be changed each year. The functions now largely performed by the President could be transferred to a Chairman of the Board, annually elected by the membership. The Board, of course, would continue to exercise policy control.

Quality Control is Essential

Essential ingredients of the entire program must be responsibility and “quality control.” The publications, the articles, the speeches, the media programs, the advertising, the briefs filed in courts, and the appearances before legislative committees — all must meet the most exacting standards of accuracy and professional excellence. They must merit respect for their level of public responsibility and scholarship, whether one agrees with the viewpoints expressed or not.

Relationship to Freedom

The threat to the enterprise system is not merely a matter of economics. It also is a threat to individual freedom.

It is this great truth — now so submerged by the rhetoric of the New Left and of many liberals — that must be re-affirmed if this program is to be meaningful.

There seems to be little awareness that the only alternatives to free enterprise are varying degrees of bureaucratic regulation of individual freedom — ranging from that under moderate socialism to the iron heel of the leftist or rightist dictatorship.

We in America already have moved very far indeed toward some aspects of state socialism, as the needs and complexities of a vast urban society require types of regulation and control that were quite unnecessary in earlier times. In some areas, such regulation and control already have seriously impaired the freedom of both business and labor, and indeed of the public generally. But most of the essential freedoms remain: private ownership, private profit, labor unions, collective bargaining, consumer choice, and a market economy in which competition largely determines price, quality and variety of the goods and services provided the consumer.

In addition to the ideological attack on the system itself (discussed in this memorandum), its essentials also are threatened by inequitable taxation, and — more recently — by an inflation which has seemed uncontrollable.14 But whatever the causes of diminishing economic freedom may be, the truth is that freedom as a concept is indivisible. As the experience of the socialist and totalitarian states demonstrates, the contraction and denial of economic freedom is followed inevitably by governmental restrictions on other cherished rights. It is this message, above all others, that must be carried home to the American people.

Conclusion

It hardly need be said that the views expressed above are tentative and suggestive. The first step should be a thorough study. But this would be an exercise in futility unless the Board of Directors of the Chamber accepts the fundamental premise of this paper, namely, that business and the enterprise system are in deep trouble, and the hour is late.

Footnotes (Powell’s)

  • Variously called: the “free enterprise system,” “capitalism,” and the “profit system.” The American political system of democracy under the rule of law is also under attack, often by the same individuals and organizations who seek to undermine the enterprise system.
  • Richmond News Leader, June 8, 1970. Column of William F. Buckley, Jr.
  • N.Y. Times Service article, reprinted Richmond Times-Dispatch, May 17, 1971.
  • Stewart Alsop, Yale and the Deadly Danger, Newsweek, May 18. 1970.
  • Editorial, Richmond Times-Dispatch, July 7, 1971.
  • Dr. Milton Friedman, Prof. of Economics, U. of Chicago, writing a foreword to Dr. Arthur A. Shenfield’s Rockford College lectures entitled “The Ideological War Against Western Society,” copyrighted 1970 by Rockford College.
  • Fortune. May, 1971, p. 145. This Fortune analysis of the Nader influence includes a reference to Nader’s visit to a college where he was paid a lecture fee of $2,500 for “denouncing America’s big corporations in venomous language . . . bringing (rousing and spontaneous) bursts of applause” when he was asked when he planned to run for President.
  • The Washington Post, Column of William Raspberry, June 28, 1971.
  • Jeffrey St. John, The Wall Street Journal, May 21, 1971.
  • Barron’s National Business and Financial Weekly, “The Total Break with America, The Fifth Annual Conference of Socialist Scholars,” Sept. 15, 1969.
  • On many campuses freedom of speech has been denied to all who express moderate or conservative viewpoints.
  • It has been estimated that the evening half-hour news programs of the networks reach daily some 50,000,000 Americans.
  • One illustration of the type of article which should not go unanswered appeared in the popular “The New York” of July 19, 1971. This was entitled “A Populist Manifesto” by ultra liberal Jack Newfield — who argued that “the root need in our country is ‘to redistribute wealth’.”
  • The recent “freeze” of prices and wages may well be justified by the current inflationary crisis. But if imposed as a permanent measure the enterprise system will have sustained a near fatal blow.

Whitey Bulger And The FBI: What Did Robert Mueller Know And When Did He Know It?

Earlier this year, the Justice Department appointed Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel to investigate connections between the Russian government and the campaign of Donald Trump. From both sides of the aisle came praise for Mueller, the former FBI director with an alabaster image.

The media was also nearly unanimous in its glowing coverage. Mostly ignored were Mueller’s role in the post-9/11 roundup of thousands of Muslims (subjected to arbitrary detention, beatings, humiliation), his botching of the anthrax investigation by ignoring a solid lead and fingering an innocent man (government legal settlement: $5.8 million), his silence as the Bush administration lied about Iraq as a pretext for war, and his his accommodation to Bush’s torture program (against protests by his own agents), which led one court to conclude that he and Attorney General John Ashcroft, “met regularly with a small group of government officials in Washington, D.C., and mapped out ways to exert maximum pressure on the individuals arrested in connection with the terrorism investigation.”

To the extent that anyone, in hailing his bona fides, paid attention to Mueller’s role in the notorious case of Boston criminal kingpin James “Whitey” Bulger, it was to describe Bulger’s arrest in 2011 as a masterful job of FBI investigation. In fact, the case of Whitey Bulger, a fugitive eluding capture for 16 years, had been one of the biggest scandals in the history of the FBI, and the Bureau’s official story of its resolution is so preposterous that it either casts a withering light on the competence of Mueller and his G men or reeks of something smellier in Mueller’s domain.

From 1979 to 1995, Whitey Bulger engaged in a criminal reign of terror that eventually established him as the most powerful underworld boss in New England. As so often in the annals of organized crime, the outlaw and the law were partners in a dread dance, and in late 1994, tipped off by his FBI handler, one John Connolly, that indictments were imminent, Bulger went on the lam and disappeared.

Whitey’ Bulger’s former FBI handler, John Connolly.

Beyond putting Bulger on the Ten Most Wanted list (and then not until 1999), the FBI went nowhere with the case for six years. After ascending to the Bureau’s leadership in 2001, Mueller likewise demonstrated indifference to apprehending Bulger until, a decade later and on the heels of his reappointment to the job, it was politically expedient both for himself and the U.S. government (of which more in a moment).

Questions about the FBI’s relationship with Bulger while he dominated Boston’s criminal underworld in the 1980s and ’90s have never been fully resolved. That a corrupt relationship existed is undisputed. From the 1970s Bulger had been a confidential informant of the FBI, recruited to help the Bureau take down the Italian Mafia. It was a toxic combination, through which Bulger only gained power.

To give but a taste of the dirty work: H. Paul Rico, who’d had a long, tainted career with the Bureau in Boston, was indicted for helping Bulger and an associate plan a murder in 1981 while Rico was head of security for World Jai Alai, a company Bulger was skimming. (Rico died in 2004 before he could be tried.)

John Connolly, Bulger’s handler beginning in the 1970s, is currently serving a lengthy prison sentence in Florida for the murder of a Bulger associate who was rumored to be cooperating with a criminal investigation.

Connolly’s supervisor, John Morris, has admitted to tipping off Bulger about another cooperating witness – information that Bulger used to murder this man, a mobster desperately seeking witness protection – and an innocent bystander in 1982. Morris, who got immunity for his cooperation, additionally admitted to receiving $7,000 in cash bribes from Bulger.

John Morris, Connolly’s supervisor.

When Connolly alerted Bulger that he was about to be arrested, it was not the first time the agent acted to protect the crime boss. Connolly had thwarted previous investigations of the Boston PD and the Massachusetts State Police by telling Bulger of specific wiretaps and surveillance; as a result, those agencies had long been wary of cooperating with the Boston FBI.

By numerous accounts, Bulger and his partner in crime Stephen Flemmi, who eventually turned state’s evidence against Whitey, believed they were shielded from prosecution, if only because of the secrets they could spill. “If I’m going to jail, you’re going to jail,” Bulger once thundered to Morris, who soon after suffered a heart attack. Bulger’s defense lawyer has argued that a senior official in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Massachusetts, Jeremiah O’Sullivan, had offered Bulger immunity. O’Sullivan is dead and Connolly, who introduced the two, is disgraced, but the tangle of evidence suggesting systemic corruption or tacit accommodation has been richly documented in books and dramatized in film.

And where was the nation’s future top cop in the 1980s as Bulger and Flemmi routinely engaged in murder, extortion and drug trafficking, and as FBI agents waded in the gore? In what is doubtless an inconvenient coincidence for a man now characterized as a bloodhound for truth and justice, Robert Mueller was a criminal prosecutor in the Boston office of the Justice Department in the early ’80s and then acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts in 1986-87.

It is possible that prosecutor Mueller, having earlier lost an infamous racketeering case against the Hells Angels in San Francisco, decided that securities fraud, New Cold War skullduggery and more mundane corruption better suited his ambitions. It is possible that FBI director Mueller, beset with the aftermath of the World Trade Center attack and his duties as an apparatchik in the Global War on Terror, had more pressing matters than Bulger.

But it’s at least as likely that Mueller was well aware from his time in Boston that the rot emanating from there went far beyond a few bad actors; that, as scandalous as the Bureau’s failure to capture Bulger was, it would be more scandalous still if Bulger had a chance to reveal the full extent of the rot; thus, the best way to protect ugly secrets about Mueller’s flailing agency and the Justice Department would be to let the crime boss run out his days in the shadows.

We may never know the reasons Mueller didn’t seem to give a rat’s ass for the Bulger investigation beyond the pro forma inquiry, when visiting the Boston Bureau as FBI director, “Where are we on Whitey Bulger?” And because Bulger, a high order rat, ultimately never did spill the secrets, preferring to hold to the fiction that he had never informed for the FBI, we still do not know the extent to which the government enabled racketeering and murder.

But if we don’t have answers, there are questions — not least of those being: how, once Mueller’s attentions were roused, did it take the Bureau a mere seven weeks to accomplish what had supposedly flummoxed it for 16 years? The official explanation for this amazing feat is absurd, involving, as we shall see in Part II, a PR agent inspired by the TV show “Alias,” photos of the crime boss that even the mother of his child couldn’t recognize, and a former Miss Iceland.

Anna Bjornsdottir, former Miss Iceland.

This part of the story begins in the aftermath of the U.S. government’s assassination of Bulger’s fellow mark on the Most Wanted list, Osama Bin Laden, in 2011. Much was being made of the fact that Bin Laden had lived so long untroubled in Pakistan, the implication being that Pakistani officials were wily Orientals and all-around friends of terror who also probably hated America for our freedoms.

Enter Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, who got on the phone with The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg to say: “If Whitey Bulger can live undetected by American police for so long, why can’t Osama Bin Laden live undetected by Pakistani authorities?”

If the Pakistani ambassador was saying this to the press, one can only imagine what he was telling U.S. government officials behind closed doors. Haqqani may have said more than he intended, for it is as hard to believe that his country’s intelligence agency knew nothing of Bin Laden’s whereabouts as it is to believe that the FBI knew nothing of Bulger’s. But in all events Haqqani had picked a scab.

That conversation was reported on May 2. Ten days later, Mueller had a sit-down with President Obama, who afterward proclaimed the director had “set the gold standard” and deserved another two years of public service. The extension had no precedent since Congress established a 10-year term limit for the FBI director in 1972, a reaction to the long, vicious reign of J. Edgar Hoover.

Still, if Mueller was smart, he might have felt some pressure. Congress would have to vote to reconfirm him. It did so almost exactly a month after the FBI stunningly captured Whitey Bulger, on June 22, 2011.

[End, Part 1]

Internet Censorship And How To Fight It With Publisher Lawsuits!

Joseph McCarthy, Red Scare monster and censor. Photo credit: Library of Congress.

You might have heard in the past few months about how Google, Twitter, and Facebook were working with the military-intelligence industrial complex to censor internet news and media websites like RT, Sputnik Radio, CounterPunch, and others who seem to threaten American ideological hegemony, usually by tarring them as “Russian influenced” and “pro-Kremlin.”

Bruce Dixon, managing editor at Black Agenda Report, wrote in early August “Conclusive evidence exists that Google is suppressing public access to socialist and left wing websites, almost certainly including Black Agenda Report.” His co-editor, the Green Party’s 2016 vice presidential nominee Ajamu Baraka, wrote elsewhere “It is absurd and an insult to argue that Russian propaganda efforts ‘deepen political and racial tensions in the United States,’ as proposed by Julia Ioffe in a recent article in The Atlantic.”

World Socialist Web Site recently wrote that data it had compiled “with the assistance of other Internet-based news outlets and search technology experts, proves that a massive loss of readership observed by socialist, anti-war and progressive web sites over the past three months has been caused by a cumulative 45 percent decrease in traffic from Google searches.” [Emphasis added]

All of this is familiar and disturbing to anyone who has an even rudimentary understanding of the Red Scare and McCarthyism.

But there is one thing which is truly different from the McCarthy era that bears a more thorough examination, namely the advent of intellectual property law under the auspices of our contemporary neoliberal legal system and how that interacts with contract laws online.

For those of you who need that translated, let’s put it this way. As your loyal Managing Editor and “Why Hollywood Sucks” columnist at Washington Babylon (in charge of everything from tech issues to the ever-present question of full frontal septuagenarian panda bear nudity), I have occasionally paid for Facebook to place Washington Babylon‘s posts in the feeds of our readers, which is known as Boosting. Here’s a quick video that explains it all:

Now let’s suppose that you are one of those aforementioned websites and that you’ve paid at some point or another for your posts to be Boosted.

If that be the case, what you have there is perhaps a pretty basic and clear-cut case of sales contract violation. Boosting is a service that is sold to Facebook Business Page users for a definite and real amount of money. Posts are put through a review process, which the user-consumer is informed of, and within the hour they get approved or rejected.

Ergo, if any of those aforementioned publications ever paid for a post to be Boosted and then learned that their paid service had been negated by Facebook’s algorithm modification, you could have the preliminary elements of a lawsuit against Facebook.

To discover if algorithm modification had resulted in a user-consumer website essentially paying Facebook to do something it was intentionally not doing after payment, which is known as consumer fraud (pronounced fraw-wud), would be pretty easy work with the help of a second year Computer Science major.

If such were the case, these publications would have the ability to argue under intellectual property law that their intellectual property — what they publish and Boost — was demonstrably infringed upon and damaged because it was blocked from reaching their full potential audience. That potential audience would be defined as the readership that the sites were getting before the sudden drop occurred, for example, that operative 45 percent decrease that the Trots over at WSWS found earlier.

Did I mention Google and Twitter also have similar advertising services? Furthermore, did I mention that intellectual property law has been the bane of the existence of progressives since, well, when it became a weapon to protect the wealthy?

David Harvey writes in A Brief History of Neoliberalism, “The establishment of intellectual property rights (patents), furthermore, encourages ‘rent seeking.’ Those who hold the patent rights use their monopoly power to set monopoly prices and to prevent technology transfers except at a very high cost. Asymmetric power relations tend, therefore, to increase rather than diminish over time unless the state steps in to counteract them.”

In other words, this would actually turn the tables on the 1% if properly maneuvered through the courts in a bigly way.

How To Spot A Deranged Democrat: A Primer

I’m traveling today so you may not hear much from me until tomorrow, but we’ve got a lot planned this week, with our final Hack List 2017 story before a final column ranking the Top Ten; a two-part series on Robert Mueller, the sainted head of the RussiaGate investigation, and, hopefully, a serious look at the bizarre diet of Tom Brady and how he sells his idiotic claims to the public for big bucks.

But for now I just want to call to your attention this great article by Crispin Sartwell in Russ Smith’s Splice Today. He thinks Donald Trump is going to be impeached and explains why — I remain highly skeptical — but urges Democrats and the rest of the lunatic #Resistance to chill the fuck out and wait for the process to play out:

Here’s an excerpt:

One of the big problems with the opposition to Donald Trump is that it’s extremely undiscriminating. If you’re Charles Blow, Eugene Robinson, Jake Tapper or Joe Scarborough, every day brings a new outrage that jacks you up to max hyperbole about mental illness, unfitness for office, clear and present danger, and so on. A nasty crack about Elizabeth Warren or CNN seems to worry these people as much as the tax code or the specter of war.

Their problem really is that Trump is radically the wrong sort of person, that he’s constantly behaving “inappropriately” by these folks’ lights, and they’ve dedicated their lives to policing appropriateness. They’re constantly freaking out because they need a presidential president to feel safe. For people like that—people desperate to be blandly subordinated—an inappropriate tweet is as bad as an obstruction of justice, or worse.

A pretty good indication of this inability to make basic distinctions is provided by the pro-impeachment ads of the hedge-fund billionaire Tom Steyer, now in heavy rotation. He doesn’t appear to be actually thinking about impeachment, just about venting a variety of complaints, and it remains mysterious how a television campaign, aimed at people who already agree, could help bring about a real impeachment. Steyer always seems to lead with North Korea, for example, but there’s nothing even remotely impeachable there. Seriously, he appears to think that insulting Kim Jong Un is an impeachable offense.

And he concludes by saying, “One reason I’ll be happy to see Trump go is that CNN and The New York Times will be able to regain a semblance of composure.”

Keep reading the whole story by clicking here.

MSNBC’s Joy Reid Doubles Down On Another Lie About Bernie Sanders

MSNBC’s resident establishment troll Joy Ann Reid dug herself into a hole this week after she made an outrageous claim on Twitter that Bernie Sanders is sexist, and cited his wife, Jane, as evidence.
 
“Um… I get that he has a hardcore following, but his own attitudes toward women, from his weird early writings to his physical dismissal of women in his presence (including his own wife) make that an incredibly dubious prospect,” Reid tweeted in response to a Twitter user who cited Bernie Sanders as an example of a respected man who hasn’t been tainted by the movement to expose sexual harassers and misogynists  in the political, media, and entertainment industries.
Jane Sanders tweeted in response to Reid, “I didn’t answer your biased reporting about Bernie during the last 2 years @JoyAnnReid. But don’t ever use me to demean my husband. I am very happy & very proud to be Bernie’s wife. Your perception couldn’t be more wrong. Have you ever talked with him? You’ve never spoken w/me.”
 
Reid initially ignored Sanders’ tweet, refusing to delete her initial claim, apologize, or retract it as Jane Sanders’ response went viral and several media outlets covered the exchange. It wasn’t until the Young Turks ran a story on it that Reid responded, only to double down on the attack.
 
She has since deleted the first tweet, that cites a far-right conservative news website as evidence. 
 
Her second tweet is left up, where she tries to frame her claim that Bernie Sanders was sexist toward his wife as an “implied defense of Jane.” The video in the tweet, posted by a Clinton supporter, claims to show “Bernie Being a Dick to His Wife.”
The video depicts an awkward stage exit of Jane Sanders leaving the podium during a Bernie Sanders campaign rally, a far cry from an example of misogyny. This video and deliberately misconstruing a 1972 essay Sanders wrote for an alternative publication on gender stereotypes is the only evidence Reid and other critics have cited in calling Sanders sexist.
This lack of any direct evidence is precisely why the Bernie Bros narrative during the primaries had to try to stereotype Sanders’s supporters as sexists, without providing anything to back that up. Yet the same group of Clinton supporters making these hyperbolic claims have excused Bill Clinton’s lost list of sexual harassment, and sexual assault allegations — which Hillary Clinton has dismissed as “bimbo eruptions,” including an $850,000 settlement with Paula Jones. 
 
Relying on innuendo, smears, and hyper-partisan assumptions has long been Reid’s modus operandi. Indeed, she severely criticized Hillary Clinton in 2008, back when she was pro-Obama, calling her “insane” and “the candidate of white racists.” Between 2007 to 2009, Reid posted several homophobic items about Florida Governor Charlie Crist, referring to him as “Miss Charlie” and predicating her criticism of him on her assumption that he was gay.
In 2010, Reid had called Bernie Sanders “the great clarion voice in the Democratic Party.” But after he began challenging the Democratic Party, and the weak policies it has put up over the prior decade, Reid began to paint Sanders as a political opponent of the the elite political and media status quo, of which she had become a part. By now, Reid has a long record of fabricating smears against progressives, which reflects her current fan base of Clinton and establishment loyalists.

Reid continuously criticized Sanders throughout the 2016 Democratic primaries, not on policy, but on baseless partisan assumptions. She framed protesters outside a Clinton fundraiser at George Clooney’s house as sexist for throwing dollar bills at the protest, which was actually a reference to the event’s nearly $500,000 ticket price. She even profiled Al Giordano, and helped elevate this lunatic as a respectable Sanders critic, who Clinton supporters follow en masse to this day.
 
Since the 2016 election, Reid has helped push the term “alt-left,” which emboldened the far-right and tried to conflate progressives with Koch-funded Tea Party Republicans. Last month, she wrote an error filled op-ed for the Daily Beast trying to water down claims made by former DNC Interim Chair Donna Brazile in her memoir, Hacks.
At the same time, she ignores important issues. For example, Reid never covered the Dakota Access Pipeline, favored the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement despite its pro-corporate provisions, never mentioned Keystone XL pipeline until this year when she could criticize Trump or Russia around the issue, ignores wealth and income inequality, reduces the flood of wealthy campaign donors to a necessary, inescapable reality, and has pushed the myth of “compassionate capitalism” as a viable political solution. 
 
Her recent invocation of Bernie Sanders as sexist is a propaganda narrative that has evolved from the Bernie Bros days of the primaries. It’s  another symptom of her toxic brand of political analysis, that favors “entertainment” and sensationalism over the discussion of policies and issues. 

MSNBC's Joy Reid Doubles Down On Another Lie About Bernie Sanders

MSNBC’s resident establishment troll Joy Ann Reid dug herself into a hole this week after she made an outrageous claim on Twitter that Bernie Sanders is sexist, and cited his wife, Jane, as evidence.
 
“Um… I get that he has a hardcore following, but his own attitudes toward women, from his weird early writings to his physical dismissal of women in his presence (including his own wife) make that an incredibly dubious prospect,” Reid tweeted in response to a Twitter user who cited Bernie Sanders as an example of a respected man who hasn’t been tainted by the movement to expose sexual harassers and misogynists  in the political, media, and entertainment industries.
Jane Sanders tweeted in response to Reid, “I didn’t answer your biased reporting about Bernie during the last 2 years @JoyAnnReid. But don’t ever use me to demean my husband. I am very happy & very proud to be Bernie’s wife. Your perception couldn’t be more wrong. Have you ever talked with him? You’ve never spoken w/me.”
 
Reid initially ignored Sanders’ tweet, refusing to delete her initial claim, apologize, or retract it as Jane Sanders’ response went viral and several media outlets covered the exchange. It wasn’t until the Young Turks ran a story on it that Reid responded, only to double down on the attack.
 
She has since deleted the first tweet, that cites a far-right conservative news website as evidence. 
 
Her second tweet is left up, where she tries to frame her claim that Bernie Sanders was sexist toward his wife as an “implied defense of Jane.” The video in the tweet, posted by a Clinton supporter, claims to show “Bernie Being a Dick to His Wife.”
The video depicts an awkward stage exit of Jane Sanders leaving the podium during a Bernie Sanders campaign rally, a far cry from an example of misogyny. This video and deliberately misconstruing a 1972 essay Sanders wrote for an alternative publication on gender stereotypes is the only evidence Reid and other critics have cited in calling Sanders sexist.
This lack of any direct evidence is precisely why the Bernie Bros narrative during the primaries had to try to stereotype Sanders’s supporters as sexists, without providing anything to back that up. Yet the same group of Clinton supporters making these hyperbolic claims have excused Bill Clinton’s lost list of sexual harassment, and sexual assault allegations — which Hillary Clinton has dismissed as “bimbo eruptions,” including an $850,000 settlement with Paula Jones. 
 
Relying on innuendo, smears, and hyper-partisan assumptions has long been Reid’s modus operandi. Indeed, she severely criticized Hillary Clinton in 2008, back when she was pro-Obama, calling her “insane” and “the candidate of white racists.” Between 2007 to 2009, Reid posted several homophobic items about Florida Governor Charlie Crist, referring to him as “Miss Charlie” and predicating her criticism of him on her assumption that he was gay.
In 2010, Reid had called Bernie Sanders “the great clarion voice in the Democratic Party.” But after he began challenging the Democratic Party, and the weak policies it has put up over the prior decade, Reid began to paint Sanders as a political opponent of the the elite political and media status quo, of which she had become a part. By now, Reid has a long record of fabricating smears against progressives, which reflects her current fan base of Clinton and establishment loyalists.

Reid continuously criticized Sanders throughout the 2016 Democratic primaries, not on policy, but on baseless partisan assumptions. She framed protesters outside a Clinton fundraiser at George Clooney’s house as sexist for throwing dollar bills at the protest, which was actually a reference to the event’s nearly $500,000 ticket price. She even profiled Al Giordano, and helped elevate this lunatic as a respectable Sanders critic, who Clinton supporters follow en masse to this day.
 
Since the 2016 election, Reid has helped push the term “alt-left,” which emboldened the far-right and tried to conflate progressives with Koch-funded Tea Party Republicans. Last month, she wrote an error filled op-ed for the Daily Beast trying to water down claims made by former DNC Interim Chair Donna Brazile in her memoir, Hacks.
At the same time, she ignores important issues. For example, Reid never covered the Dakota Access Pipeline, favored the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement despite its pro-corporate provisions, never mentioned Keystone XL pipeline until this year when she could criticize Trump or Russia around the issue, ignores wealth and income inequality, reduces the flood of wealthy campaign donors to a necessary, inescapable reality, and has pushed the myth of “compassionate capitalism” as a viable political solution. 
 
Her recent invocation of Bernie Sanders as sexist is a propaganda narrative that has evolved from the Bernie Bros days of the primaries. It’s  another symptom of her toxic brand of political analysis, that favors “entertainment” and sensationalism over the discussion of policies and issues. 

Is James O’Keefe Tarnishing The Name of Undercover Reporting?

I have mixed views about James O’Keefe because even though he misled with his long-ago sting on ACORN, it certainly seemed that that now defunct group had become corrupt. (I defended O’Keefe at the time.) And I like what he said about, “Being hated is a sign of respect.”

Also, I’m not, to put in mildly, a fan of the Bezos & Amazon.com Post, previously known as the Washington Post. But O’Keefe’s apparently botched sting of the Post has generated support for the newspaper, and that’s unfortunate.

If you haven’t heard about the story here is a recent excerpt — but keep in mind it’s a Post story so it, be definition, is less than fully accurate:

James O’Keefe, the self-described “guerrilla journalist” who runs Project Veritas, spoke to students at Southern Methodist University here on Wednesday night, highlighting his organization’s undercover efforts to expose what it says is liberal bias in the media and defending the deceptive tactics that are its trademark.

O’Keefe spoke just days after it was revealed that one of his organization’s undercover operatives was attempting to plant a fake story with The Washington Post, and he made mention of the sting operation just briefly, portraying himself as a David battling the Goliath of the mainstream media and vowing to push ahead with his efforts. In that case, a woman named Jaime Phillips claimed to have had a sexual relationship with U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore when she was a teenager and tried to lure reporters into covering the false story; The Post instead revealed the ploy.

O’Keefe has been said to have political motives and ties to the White House. I asked him for comment and this is what he had to say:

The undercover alias is used as a ruse, a premise, to elicit/extract truth or comments in a meeting. The notion that we were trying to plant a fake story in the newspaper is preposterous, akin to saying I wanted to actually import underage hookers when I said I was a pimp [in the ACORN sting]. It’s part of going “undercover.” So many people are assigning fake motives.

I had no political motives and I have no connection to the Trump White House. Trump gave us $20,000 in 2015 and our total budget last year was about $4.6 million. We are crowdsource funded and completely independent. There are no quid pro quos. Trump gave money to the Clinton Foundation too.

(That’s true, as I reported in VICE. The Trump Foundation contributed to the Clinton Foundation twice, donating $100,000 in 2009, and $10,000 in 2010, according to the its tax filings.)

Meanwhile, my friend Jack Shafer wrote an entire column about O’Keefe yesterday that criticized all undercover reporting and mentioned me in passing in a negative fashion. As I tweeted yesterday to Jack, I don’t want to be mentioned in passing; I want a whole column devoted to me with my name in the headlines. I also asked him to take me out to lunch.

Anyway, here’s a link to Jack’s column, which notes that about a decade ago I employed undercover tactics to dupe, and expose, top DC lobbying firms’s willingness to shill for the dictatorial regime of Turkmeniscam. Hold it, that’s the name of my low-selling book, the country is called Turkmenistan, and it’s led by this shit head pictured below.

Dictator with shitty fashion sense.

Here’s an excerpt from Jack’s story, in which he discloses that we are friends:

While outrageous, the depth of Veritas’ undercover deceptions is not unprecedented, even in contemporary journalistic circles. In 2007, investigative journalist Ken Silverstein went undercover for Harper’s magazine as a business executive who intended to hire lobbyists to skirt the law in helping him reform Turkmenistan’s poor international image. In 1992, ABC News producers told Food Lion a passel of lies to secure jobs at the supermarket so they could film a story about the chain’s substandard health practices. In 1963, Gloria Steinem submitted a fake name and Social Security number to get a job as a Playboy bunny for her exposé in Show magazine.

In the Silverstein [case a journalist] created opportunities for unethical and criminal behavior that might not otherwise exist. A less morally compromised version of the Mirage story would have had the Sun-Times detecting the same crimes but with bars not owned by the paper. Proponents of aggressive undercover reporting justify their methods by insisting that some kinds of investigative work can’t be done unless reporters insert themselves as fake players in the process.

They’re probably right. It’s difficult to report on how sleazy lobbying and influence-peddling can be unless you insert yourself in the story. But if the press starts sanctioning the telling of lies and staging scenarios to get stories, what’s the next step? Wiretapping? Break-ins? Extortion? The employment of call girls? Other assorted dirty tricks? All of these methods would reap rich results, but at a cost that’s morally prohibitive. 

But enough about Jack. I disagree with him, and here’s what I wrote in the Los Angeles Times, way back in 2007, in defending myself and undercover journalism:

Earlier this year, I put on a brand-new tailored suit, picked up a sleek leather briefcase and headed to downtown Washington for meetings with some of the city’s most prominent lobbyists. I had contacted their firms several weeks earlier, pretending to be the representative of a London-based energy company with business interests in Turkmenistan. I told them I wanted to hire the services of a firm to burnish that country’s image.

I didn’t mention that Turkmenistan is run by an ugly, neo-Stalinist regime. They surely knew that, and besides, they didn’t care. As I explained in this month’s issue of Harper’s Magazine, the lobbyists I met at Cassidy & Associates and APCO were more than eager to help out. In exchange for fees of up to $1.5 million a year, they offered to send congressional delegations to Turkmenistan and write and plant opinion pieces in newspapers under the names of academics and think-tank experts they would recruit. They even offered to set up supposedly “independent” media events in Washington that would promote Turkmenistan (the agenda and speakers would actually be determined by the lobbyists).

All this, Cassidy and APCO promised, could be done quietly and unobtrusively, because the law that regulates foreign lobbyists is so flimsy that the firms would be required to reveal little information in their public disclosure forms.

Now, in a fabulous bit of irony, my article about the unethical behavior of lobbying firms has become, for some in the media, a story about my ethics in reporting the story. The lobbyists have attacked the story and me personally, saying that it was unethical of me to misrepresent myself when I went to speak to them.

Anyway, you can decide for yourself. Here’s what Charles Glasser, media lawyer and adjunct professor at NYU’s School of Journalism, has to say:

“Undercover work by journalists should be a last resort, when there is no other way to get a story with a genuine public interest,” says . “The current problem with undercover videos has been that the media likes them when they reveal wrongdoing about people they don’t like, but ignore the dangerous precedent they set when they complain about undercover videos exposing causes with which they agree. The Planned Parenthood/fetus parts for sale episode in San Francisco is a good example of a media militating against a technique that they themselves use frequently.”

 

Is James O'Keefe Tarnishing The Name of Undercover Reporting?

I have mixed views about James O’Keefe because even though he misled with his long-ago sting on ACORN, it certainly seemed that that now defunct group had become corrupt. (I defended O’Keefe at the time.) And I like what he said about, “Being hated is a sign of respect.”

Also, I’m not, to put in mildly, a fan of the Bezos & Amazon.com Post, previously known as the Washington Post. But O’Keefe’s apparently botched sting of the Post has generated support for the newspaper, and that’s unfortunate.

If you haven’t heard about the story here is a recent excerpt — but keep in mind it’s a Post story so it, be definition, is less than fully accurate:

James O’Keefe, the self-described “guerrilla journalist” who runs Project Veritas, spoke to students at Southern Methodist University here on Wednesday night, highlighting his organization’s undercover efforts to expose what it says is liberal bias in the media and defending the deceptive tactics that are its trademark.

O’Keefe spoke just days after it was revealed that one of his organization’s undercover operatives was attempting to plant a fake story with The Washington Post, and he made mention of the sting operation just briefly, portraying himself as a David battling the Goliath of the mainstream media and vowing to push ahead with his efforts. In that case, a woman named Jaime Phillips claimed to have had a sexual relationship with U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore when she was a teenager and tried to lure reporters into covering the false story; The Post instead revealed the ploy.

O’Keefe has been said to have political motives and ties to the White House. I asked him for comment and this is what he had to say:

The undercover alias is used as a ruse, a premise, to elicit/extract truth or comments in a meeting. The notion that we were trying to plant a fake story in the newspaper is preposterous, akin to saying I wanted to actually import underage hookers when I said I was a pimp [in the ACORN sting]. It’s part of going “undercover.” So many people are assigning fake motives.

I had no political motives and I have no connection to the Trump White House. Trump gave us $20,000 in 2015 and our total budget last year was about $4.6 million. We are crowdsource funded and completely independent. There are no quid pro quos. Trump gave money to the Clinton Foundation too.

(That’s true, as I reported in VICE. The Trump Foundation contributed to the Clinton Foundation twice, donating $100,000 in 2009, and $10,000 in 2010, according to the its tax filings.)

Meanwhile, my friend Jack Shafer wrote an entire column about O’Keefe yesterday that criticized all undercover reporting and mentioned me in passing in a negative fashion. As I tweeted yesterday to Jack, I don’t want to be mentioned in passing; I want a whole column devoted to me with my name in the headlines. I also asked him to take me out to lunch.

Anyway, here’s a link to Jack’s column, which notes that about a decade ago I employed undercover tactics to dupe, and expose, top DC lobbying firms’s willingness to shill for the dictatorial regime of Turkmeniscam. Hold it, that’s the name of my low-selling book, the country is called Turkmenistan, and it’s led by this shit head pictured below.

Dictator with shitty fashion sense.

Here’s an excerpt from Jack’s story, in which he discloses that we are friends:

While outrageous, the depth of Veritas’ undercover deceptions is not unprecedented, even in contemporary journalistic circles. In 2007, investigative journalist Ken Silverstein went undercover for Harper’s magazine as a business executive who intended to hire lobbyists to skirt the law in helping him reform Turkmenistan’s poor international image. In 1992, ABC News producers told Food Lion a passel of lies to secure jobs at the supermarket so they could film a story about the chain’s substandard health practices. In 1963, Gloria Steinem submitted a fake name and Social Security number to get a job as a Playboy bunny for her exposé in Show magazine.

In the Silverstein [case a journalist] created opportunities for unethical and criminal behavior that might not otherwise exist. A less morally compromised version of the Mirage story would have had the Sun-Times detecting the same crimes but with bars not owned by the paper. Proponents of aggressive undercover reporting justify their methods by insisting that some kinds of investigative work can’t be done unless reporters insert themselves as fake players in the process.

They’re probably right. It’s difficult to report on how sleazy lobbying and influence-peddling can be unless you insert yourself in the story. But if the press starts sanctioning the telling of lies and staging scenarios to get stories, what’s the next step? Wiretapping? Break-ins? Extortion? The employment of call girls? Other assorted dirty tricks? All of these methods would reap rich results, but at a cost that’s morally prohibitive. 

But enough about Jack. I disagree with him, and here’s what I wrote in the Los Angeles Times, way back in 2007, in defending myself and undercover journalism:

Earlier this year, I put on a brand-new tailored suit, picked up a sleek leather briefcase and headed to downtown Washington for meetings with some of the city’s most prominent lobbyists. I had contacted their firms several weeks earlier, pretending to be the representative of a London-based energy company with business interests in Turkmenistan. I told them I wanted to hire the services of a firm to burnish that country’s image.

I didn’t mention that Turkmenistan is run by an ugly, neo-Stalinist regime. They surely knew that, and besides, they didn’t care. As I explained in this month’s issue of Harper’s Magazine, the lobbyists I met at Cassidy & Associates and APCO were more than eager to help out. In exchange for fees of up to $1.5 million a year, they offered to send congressional delegations to Turkmenistan and write and plant opinion pieces in newspapers under the names of academics and think-tank experts they would recruit. They even offered to set up supposedly “independent” media events in Washington that would promote Turkmenistan (the agenda and speakers would actually be determined by the lobbyists).

All this, Cassidy and APCO promised, could be done quietly and unobtrusively, because the law that regulates foreign lobbyists is so flimsy that the firms would be required to reveal little information in their public disclosure forms.

Now, in a fabulous bit of irony, my article about the unethical behavior of lobbying firms has become, for some in the media, a story about my ethics in reporting the story. The lobbyists have attacked the story and me personally, saying that it was unethical of me to misrepresent myself when I went to speak to them.

Anyway, you can decide for yourself. Here’s what Charles Glasser, media lawyer and adjunct professor at NYU’s School of Journalism, has to say:

“Undercover work by journalists should be a last resort, when there is no other way to get a story with a genuine public interest,” says . “The current problem with undercover videos has been that the media likes them when they reveal wrongdoing about people they don’t like, but ignore the dangerous precedent they set when they complain about undercover videos exposing causes with which they agree. The Planned Parenthood/fetus parts for sale episode in San Francisco is a good example of a media militating against a technique that they themselves use frequently.”

 

The Sham Indictment of Michael Flynn & Robert Mueller’s Bogus Investigation

Well, well, well, Hillary-crats all over America must be rubbing their hands in glee: Michael Flynn has been indicted and obviously is going to flip to get a lighter sentence!!!

Give me a fucking break.

I’m not particularly fond of Flynn’s policies, especially his moronic obsession with Iran, but frankly he sounds like a lot of fun. As I noted in this previous item — Who Would You Rather Have a Drink With, Michael Flynn or Ezra Klein and Josh Marshall? The choice is painfully clear — Trump’s former national security advisor “graduated in 1977 from Middletown High School Class, where he was known lovingly as Flynnie, was co-captain of the state championship football team and loved surfing and Roxy Music.” What’s not to like? (OK, that last two things are not so cool.)

More to the point, Flynn’s worst misconduct involves legally accepting $400,000 from Turkish interests — not Russian, please note — and registering late as a foreign lobbyist. Should he have registered promptly? Sure, but we are talking about $400,000, which is chump change in Washington.

Hardly anyone in Washington registers to lobby. Countries like Qatar and China have countless influence peddlers on retainer, but only a few are officially registered with the Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration Act office. They just pretend they’re doing PR or something else that somehow falls short of lobbying. Meanwhile, Qatar, among others, pours vast sums into crooked think tanks, who are unregistered lobbyists par excellence.

Über Sleaze Henry Kissinger has been peddling influence for decades and has never registered. And by the way, I’ll have a story about his unregistered activities for China next week. I can’r wait for RussiaGate special prosecutor Robert Mueller to haul him in.

Someone arrest this man!

Let me also point to Michael Tracey’s Twitter post, which says, “Grand irony: the underlying action that Flynn now admits he lied to the FBI about was urging de-escalation with a nuclear power, which is now no longer permissible.” (You should all be following Michael on Twitter, especially so you don’t miss his excellent work on the whole RussiaGate affair.)

Look, Washington is rotten to the core and I’m sure Flynn is no saint. (Check out this Washington Post story on his son’s activities, for example.) But today’s indictment merely confirms what has been apparent for ages, and which I’ll stick to until I see evidence to the contrary:

Trump, Flynn and Manafort are dirty as hell, but there is nothing so far that indicates they did anything out of the ordinary, in politics or business. That’s sad, but true.

Mueller’s whole strategy is to get Trump, and anyone else he can bag, on obstruction of justice or perjury or some other charge that was committed after the fact. There was no quid pro quo between Trump and Russia. He should be voted out of office, not railroaded by Mueller and his minions in the press.

The Sham Indictment of Michael Flynn & Robert Mueller's Bogus Investigation

Well, well, well, Hillary-crats all over America must be rubbing their hands in glee: Michael Flynn has been indicted and obviously is going to flip to get a lighter sentence!!!

Give me a fucking break.

I’m not particularly fond of Flynn’s policies, especially his moronic obsession with Iran, but frankly he sounds like a lot of fun. As I noted in this previous item — Who Would You Rather Have a Drink With, Michael Flynn or Ezra Klein and Josh Marshall? The choice is painfully clear — Trump’s former national security advisor “graduated in 1977 from Middletown High School Class, where he was known lovingly as Flynnie, was co-captain of the state championship football team and loved surfing and Roxy Music.” What’s not to like? (OK, that last two things are not so cool.)

More to the point, Flynn’s worst misconduct involves legally accepting $400,000 from Turkish interests — not Russian, please note — and registering late as a foreign lobbyist. Should he have registered promptly? Sure, but we are talking about $400,000, which is chump change in Washington.

Hardly anyone in Washington registers to lobby. Countries like Qatar and China have countless influence peddlers on retainer, but only a few are officially registered with the Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration Act office. They just pretend they’re doing PR or something else that somehow falls short of lobbying. Meanwhile, Qatar, among others, pours vast sums into crooked think tanks, who are unregistered lobbyists par excellence.

Über Sleaze Henry Kissinger has been peddling influence for decades and has never registered. And by the way, I’ll have a story about his unregistered activities for China next week. I can’r wait for RussiaGate special prosecutor Robert Mueller to haul him in.

Someone arrest this man!

Let me also point to Michael Tracey’s Twitter post, which says, “Grand irony: the underlying action that Flynn now admits he lied to the FBI about was urging de-escalation with a nuclear power, which is now no longer permissible.” (You should all be following Michael on Twitter, especially so you don’t miss his excellent work on the whole RussiaGate affair.)

Look, Washington is rotten to the core and I’m sure Flynn is no saint. (Check out this Washington Post story on his son’s activities, for example.) But today’s indictment merely confirms what has been apparent for ages, and which I’ll stick to until I see evidence to the contrary:

Trump, Flynn and Manafort are dirty as hell, but there is nothing so far that indicates they did anything out of the ordinary, in politics or business. That’s sad, but true.

Mueller’s whole strategy is to get Trump, and anyone else he can bag, on obstruction of justice or perjury or some other charge that was committed after the fact. There was no quid pro quo between Trump and Russia. He should be voted out of office, not railroaded by Mueller and his minions in the press.

The National Enquirer Did It First

I grew up far from the madding crowds, surrounded by acres of fallow farmland and heaps of tabloids. My father always had the latest National Enquirer, though he didn’t discriminate; he grabbed National Examiners and Globes and Stars by the handful as he pushed his cart through the checkout line at the Giant Eagle.

Not to say that he didn’t have limits: he hadn’t the time for Time and hated People almost as he hated people. The old man owned used car dealerships and dive bars and other slimy operations, and he knew native advertising, public relations, and career-fluffing when he saw it. He preferred to wallow in the dirt and always wanted more of it.

“Everything in these magazines is true,” he’d say when my mother protested that this choice of reading material catered to the prurient interests of its dim-witted audience. “But you know, what I’m really worried about is everything that isn’t.”

We would sit together on the leather couch in the den, loutish, aging father and impressionable home-schooled child. I didn’t attend preschool or kindergarten, so instead of seeing Dick and Jane run, I heard about Gary Hart and Jim Bakker fooling around. My father, who in those days had a magical way of earning maximal income with minimal effort, believed this to be “quality time,” thinking that he was wising me up to the ways of the world.

Jim and Tammy Faye. Oh, how we miss you.

“Yeah, sure, you can make it up,” he told me. “But even when you make it up, it’s on the money. The whole system, the way the big shots carry on…If you only knew a little bit of the truth, it would make your toes curl and the blood shoot out of your eyes.”

His beloved National Enquirer was a vestigial relic of the Hearst publishing empire that had wound up in the hands of allegedly mob-connected Generoso Pope and stayed there until 1988, when it was bought by Macfadden Publishing, itself a vestigial relic of the glory days of of muscleman Bernarr Macfadden’s publishing empire (of which the tabloids The New York Evening Graphic and the confessional True Story once constituted major parts). The rag sold for $412 million, roughly $350 million more than it cost to purchase the Boston Globe in 2013.

“Those pubs [like the Enquirer] paid a fortune to writers,” veteran alternative press publisher Russ Smith told me. “Of course, if you worked there, it was a stain that couldn’t be erased.”

The knock on the Enquirer, of course, was that much of its content was bullshit, which didn’t exactly distinguish it from other, more esteemed publications that ran stories from post-truth journalists such as Stephen Glass (New Republic) and Jayson Blair (New York Times). Most respectable folks confused it with its all-bullshit sister publication, the Weekly World News, which led with amazing stories about Bat Boy and other such sham wonders.

Jayson Blair, New York Times: And the Enquirer is the one that publishes fake news?

In our family, the heyday of the National Enquirer came during the Clinton impeachment scandal (also known as the “Monica Lewinsky scandal,” though not to her). By then, my father had fallen on hard divorces and harder times and was living with his brother. The old man had been anticipating his fall from grace for years. Like his political idol/college football opponent/semi-pro football teammate, Ohio Democratic Congressman Jim Traficant, he went long stretches without paying his federal income taxes. Both of them would meet their makers in similar fashion: as CTE-addled lunatics screaming about how life itself was one big rotten conspiracy, a joke played on all of us.

But Bill Clinton gave my father a brief reprieve from the business of giving up on life, handing him a scorching-hot issue he could sink his teeth into. A sleazebag like Jim Traficant was a mere crook, the sort of person who could be surveilled and thereafter kept at arm’s length. Clinton, on the other hand, struck my father as an inveterate liar, a man whose success hinged on a number of falsehoods that eventually earned him the presidential salary my father’s tax dollars were paying, if my father ever remembered to pay his taxes. “You can watch a thief, but you can’t trust a liar,” he’d intone like some guru with each new bit of Kenneth Starr/Linda Tripp-pseudo-story.

Congressman Traficant: He swore to tell the truth.

For my father, the issue with Clinton wasn’t “Slick Willie’s” adultery. No, he assumed everyone, himself included, engaged in that when given the slightest opportunity. It was the abuse of power in order to incentivize adultery, the abuse of power to weave elaborate lies, that incensed him. Slick Willie simply couldn’t lie and keep his facts straight like the rest of us; instead, he was forcing himself on a younger person who lacked the willpower to refuse his advances. Over the course of a lifetime, the son of a dead traveling salesman and a very lively nurse had accumulated vast amounts of power for no better reason than the one that causes your dog to chase its tail.

Slick? Willy looks like Dorian Gray nowadays.

There was no point to it all, except because. We competed and destroyed one another, and why not? What the hell else could you do?

Like any publication, the National Enquirer operated according to its internal political logic — logic that became clearer during the most recent election, when its current ownership kept bad news about Trump off the front page and tasked its reporters with exposing his rivals. But that wasn’t all the Enquirer accomplished during the previous decade.

Indeed, the preceding ten years had witnessed some of the publication’s best work, when it shifted from trying to “out” Scientologists John Travolta and Tom Cruise to forcing Sarah Palin’s teen daughter Bristol to admit she was pregnant (after numerous TV appearances in which she urged teens to abstain from sex) and John Edwards to come clean about his rotten behavior (Edwards, a blow-dryed, ambulance-chasing dead ringer for “30 Rock’s” page Kenneth Parcell, was simultaneously publicizing his dying wife’s heroic fight with cancer, trying to capture the progressive vote in the 2008 election, and fathering a child with a woman whom he initially ordered to claim she had conceived with former campaign staffer Andrew Young).

Initially, Palin and Edwards tried to deny the claims, falling back on the fact that most people believed the National Enquirer was comprised of fiction. But they were eventually hoisted on their own petards, as rubber-faced Ted Cruz, who survived the Enquirer’s allegations of extramarital affairs but recently slipped and “liked” a pornographic tweet (he attributed that whoopsie-daisy to a careless staffer), assuredly will be.

Ken Silverstein, the editor-in-chief of Washington Babylon, almost wound up working for the National Enquirer — a state of affairs he wouldn’t have minded, had Hillary Clinton won. But the mission of this website, which owes its title to pioneering director Kenneth Anger’s delightfully ahead-of-its-time tattletale Hollywood Babylon, extends much further than that.

May god fuck you both.

You see, pretty much everyone with even a modicum of power is a fucking asshole. That’s the plain truth of the matter. There are a few good ones to be raked from the rubbish, I suppose, but this free market in awfulness eventually turns everyone into a monster — men, in particular.

The powerful are trash people almost to a man, and the attention paid to tabloids over the past century certainly isn’t owing to bullshit pablum like “Stars…they’re Just Like Us,” but rather because they aren’t anything like us; they steal, hoard, and abuse their power, and we hate them for it.

We hate the marginally powerful (Twitter celebrities who turn their followings into sexual harassment clinics), the somewhat powerful (Garrison Keillor, somehow), and the reasonably powerful (Harvey Weinstein, alleged pederast Bryan Singer once the authorities catch up to him). We would hate the very powerful and the mega-powerful too, the Carlos Slims and Mark Zuckerbergs, if we could turn high-powered paparazzi lenses on them and expose their gross goings-on; likely no airport barf bag could contain our upchuck and no padded cell could contain our rage.

“As long as these rat bastards go down, I don’t care if it’s one at a time,” my father used to tell me. “To hell with all of them.”

Readers of this site would like to see radical change happen much faster than that, but, like many of these recently-humiliated creepy-ass men on the creepy-ass fringes of social media, we will have to take what we can get.

And you can count on one thing from Washington Babylon: We will treat Carlos Slim and Mark Zuckerberg with the same contempt we have for Harvey Weinstein, Anthony Weiner, Hillary and Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump.

Two Hillary Supporters Discuss The 2016 I’m With Her Campaign App One Year Later

  • The Hillary Clinton 2016 app is a virtual HQ designed to keep Hillary supporters engaged in her campaign and message. It eerily feels like a metaphor for her actual campaign; users of the app are isolated, left alone in a virtual office to arrange items like imaginary donuts and I’m With Her posters. It’s an echo chamber and you’re the sole staff member.

Although the app did encourage users to visit a real world Hillary office, it mentioned that it can be scary and sending texts and alerts from your virtual HQ is solid action too. Here’s the Medium piece that sparked the discussion.

Clearly they were right, because Hillary is now President.

Two users discuss the genius  app they still use daily in 2017:

CANDICE: People tell us the election was a year ago and we should move on, but what they don’t understand is Hillary isn’t just a candidate she is a way of life. You wanna know about the Hillary 2016 Campaign app? Let’s put it this way, I would live in the Hillary campaign HQ app if I could, and in many respects I do. And no, lefty weirdos, it’s not an echo chamber just because I’m in there alone discussing all things Hillary by myself. Grow up, Berniebros.

REGINA: [clapping] Hillary is the real President! Everyone knows that, and the app just makes it possible.

CANDICE: Exactly. I start everyday by printing and re-signing my promise to vote for Hillary card provided by the app. Fun and true fact about me, each night Hillary appears to me in a dream surrounded by a ring of fire and howls through her glistening wolf teeth, You are a lawyer with a political science degree, and you will commit to vote for me every day until you die. It’s all very normal and in no way a cult like some lefties on social media have been calling us.

REGINA: Right? I get so mad when the idiots on Twitter call us a cult. How ridiculous is that?  Just because my commitment to Hillary is not even up for question no matter what she does? Does that make me blinded to facts? No, I don’t think so. If that makes us a cult and brainwashed, then so be it, but we totally aren’t, obviously. Look, it’s berniebros who are in a cult, not us.

Oh, and I actually just printed out the loyalty oath card and had it laminated. I even carry it in my wallet.

CANDICE: I had the Hillary loyalty oath tattooed across my chest. But sure, your laminated card is fine too, I guess.

REGINA: It’s not a competition, Candice.

CANDICE: Maybe not, but clearly some of us love Hillary a little more than others. That’s all I’m saying.

REGINA: I love Hillary, too.

CANDICE: But I love her more. I’m a lawyer with a political science degree, so I think I know more about all of this than you. Let’s just move on.

Another very normal thing I do is set the Countdown to Election Day clock to start over each morning so every day is November 8th 2016. So in my virtual world Hillary never lost and has a new chance of winning. And of course, I make sure she wins every night. So far, Hillary has become President over 365 times.

REGINA: That’s a great idea. In *my* Hillary HQ app, I have racked up so many points from all the texting I have done for her, I earned enough to buy new virtual furniture. [DMs BFF Neera Tanden who dreams about a real office in Hillary’s 2020 West Wing]

CANDICE: I love that you can buy furniture. And there are other great things too. I recently bought a virtual kick-boxing Susan Sarandon themed  punching bag.

REGINA: I bought that too. I punch Susan Sarandon’s stupid face and yell,  If it weren’t for you, Hillary would be President right now, you bitch!

It’s OBVIOUS that Susan Sarandon influenced people in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin not to vote for Hillary. Fuck her and her alt-left INFLUENCE.

CANDICE: Susan Sarandon is basically the reason for all evil in the world, I’m convinced.

REGINA: One hundred percent. SO MUCH of this is Susan Sarandon’s fault. At *least* we have the app to beat the hell out of Susan whenever we want. It’s so great.

CANDICE: And the app is so smart. I mean really smart. If I don’t come back, my virtual plants will die. That’s a lot of incentive to come back, but like I needed an incentive to come back to Hillary HQ? Um, no. I love her. The app is just pure genius.

REGINA: It really is, Candice. I keep moving the #ImWithHer signs around. Sometimes it’s lonely in my Hillary HQ virtual office, but just *knowing* others are engaging and loving *their* Hillary virtual office..well..SOLIDARITY.

CANDICE: When I was nine I was abducted by aliens and my parents found me a week later in the ball pit of a Chuck-E-Cheese.

REGINA: [long pause] Okay. I also have a virtual pillow that says, Pokemon Go To The Polls!

CANDICE: [longer pause] They said I was speaking a dead language when they found me and I was never the same since.

Lol, anyway.

I also like that the app gives a true Hillary supporter like me a safe space where I can share ideas with myself. Since I am the only one in the room I feel comfortable to say, Bernie is a Russian agent and no one disagrees with me. Or I can say, Hillary is the most popular politician in America, and there’s no berniebro there to bring up some fake Russian poll to prove me wrong.

REGINA: Candice, no WONDER you have a J.D degree AND one in political science…

CANDICE: I also have degrees in History, Art, Psychology and Organic Biology, but you know me, I’m not one to brag or talk about my degrees.

REGINA: That’s so true, you are exceedingly humble. Here’s what I do, I go to my Hillary App, arrange photos and things. Then after imagine sitting at my desk and writing up a list of all the secret Russian agents (you know the ones, Candice, Jen Kirkman is on the case too, just look for Bernie supporters, surrogates and BERNIE HIMSELF) to give to Neera, who I PRAY will give the list to Hillary.

CANDICE:  That’s the most important work there is right now. Some people say it’s healthcare, a living wage, or the environment, but they’re all wrong. It’s identifying Russian bots and agents on Twitter.

REGINA: Yes. And it’s so sad that only we get that.

CANDICE: One thing I’d like to mention when reaching  out to the less educated Hillary voter is the app is careful not to make people feel stupid. I don’t have to worry about that, but you might. As a lawyer with a political science degree, I never feel or look stupid.

REGINA: Thank God for you, Candice. Whenever I’ve had questions regarding this app, like What’s this for? or, This seems kind of useless, I contact you and you bring me back to getting it. Thank you so much for never backing down and keeping all of us on course. Hillary is our REAL PRESIDENT.

CANDICE: She is our one and only true god, all others are false gods. All hail the queen, may those that question her or her reign be struck down by a thousand bolts of lightning. Thus speaketh Nergal, god of war of ancient Mesopotamia-  [rants in dead language for several minutes]

You will all bow down before Hillary!

REGINA: Amen!

CANDICE: [out of breath] My therapist told me I’m stuck and that it’s not healthy to live in an app or any alternate reality, but I told him-

REGINA: …. you’re a lawyer with a political science degree?

CANDICE: Exactly, and then I  promptly fired him for ever questioning me.

REGINA: Good for you. Know what’s odd, Candice? I’ve been told by five different therapists that they cannot help me. It’s usually only after I tell them about the Hillary HQ app. It’s so weird.

CANDICE: Don’t listen to them. You are a very normal person just like me. Did you know I was a girl scout before I was a lawyer with a political science degree? I love that I can earn badges in the Hillary app just like Girl Scouts. After a year I have eight hundred thousand and twelve badges. It’s my life’s work . Friends have suggested that my time could be better spent by volunteering at a food bank, or my local Democratic party, or literally any other thing, but we both know that’s nonsense, Regina.

REGINA: As far as getting involved with my local Democratic Party goes, yeah I tried it and NO. Too many Bernie supporters. Fuck them, hear what I’m saying? (I know you do, Candice) As far as badges go, I have Neera on my back. I actually have more badges than you.

CANDICE: No you don’t.

REGINA: Yes, I do.

CANDICE: [through clenched teeth] Are you questioning me?

REGINA: Look, we’re both tired. The app takes a lot of time and energy. Let’s both calm down.

CANDICE: I. AM. A. LAWYER. WITH. A. POLITICAL. SCIENCE. DEGREE.

REGINA: Christ. Fine, whatever. Here’s what we can agree on, Bernie Sanders is not a Democrat and is clearly a Russian chaos agent paid by Putin. Jen Kirkman is one hundred percent right.

CANDICE: Jen Kirkman is one of the few accounts on Twitter that makes sense.

REGINA: People say this app isn’t really activism, and I say, Fuck you Berniebro, you don’t know jack.

CANDICE: I so agree. I also love the virtual donuts they left out for us. I made a virtual berniebro Nina Turner and when she comes to my office to give me the People’s Platform I throw donuts at her through the window. Ha ha ha ha!

REGINA: OH MY GOD! I was *just* about to talk about the plate of donuts. That Nina Turner makes me FURIOUS! HOW DARE she want the Democratic Party to actually be the, what does she call it? “Party of the People” Fuck her and all those sexist bros.  I’m with you, Candice.

CANDICE: I made a virtual Bernie Sanders, too. He’s trapped in a pit in the basement. Sometimes I shout to him, It puts the lotion in the basket, or it gets the hose again. Only drawback is I’m  afraid he’ll take my virtual dog, Henry Kissinger, hostage.

REGINA: That wretched LIAR, Bernie Sanders has three goddamn houses. Keep him in the pit.  I write to Tom Perez and Chuck Schumer daily and tell Tom to get Bernie the hell away from the party.

CANDICE: Me too. What really makes me happy is when I visit twitter and see our crew, Joy, Debra, and Neera, among others, dogpiling on some leftist and knowing that collectively we hold over fourteen million Hillary Punching Left app badges. How can Berniebros compete with that? The Punching Left badge is my favorite, and my second of course being the, Bernie Isn’t a Real Dem badge.

REGINA: I’m trying to figure out a way to get pictures of serial left punchers to put in my Hillary virtual office. Like Joy Reid, Neera (naturally), Peter Daou and Joan Walsh.

CANDICE: Peter Daou is amazing and what every man should be. I wish he was single and would play jazz flute to me every night, then whisper Hillary’s name gently in my ear until I fell asleep.

REGINA: He’s so cool.

CANDICE: Peter Daou practically invented cool.

REGINA: He’s like a cooler Kenny G, and I didn’t think that was possible. Oh! And how great is Verrit? If anyone doubts anything we say, we’ll just be like, We have a Verrit code you dumb mother fuckers!

CANDICE: Boo-yah! Verritfied, bitches!

CANDICE: We should however mention the app can be dangerous. One time I didn’t log off for three weeks and survived on a diet of cat food and GT’s Kombucha because it was all I had in my house.

REGINA: Same happened to me, but I woke up and found myself surrounded my a month’s worth of empty Chinese takeout containers that I didn’t remember ordering. So I FEEL YOU on how ADDICTIVE the app can get.

CANDICE: I don’t even shower anymore. There’s no time. It’s so cute, I named my virtual cat Hillary and my virtual goldfish Tim Kaine. Sadly, Hillary ate Tim Kaine.

REGINA: Hillary ends up eating everyone eventually, just don’t say that on Twitter, ha ha ha.

CANDICE: Excuse me?

REGINA: [head down] I don’t know what I’m saying. I’m tired. Maybe I should go spend the next few hour doing my Hillary factoid flashcards that are in the app. I love spending hours and hours just learning about Hillary….every single thing about Hillary. The Trump or False cards are my favorite.

CANDICE: Yeah, maybe you should. [opens app] Uh-oh, virtual me just hung herself with a rope woven from I’m With Her T Shirts.

Again.

Breaking: Dennis Hastert, The Longest-Serving Republican Speaker Of The House In History, Has Vanished

Oliver Bateman, a jack-of-all-trades and wrestling historian, will soon debut on this site with a story about the National Enquirer. And by the way, check out my story on the Enquirer from earlier today, where I exclusively reveal that I was almost its Washington bureau chief.

Oliver is a little eccentric and his work may come as a shock to our many serious readers, so I thought I better prep you all before unleashing him on our pages this Friday. So check out his amazing story in Paris Review, “Chasing Amy and the toxic ‘nerd masculinity of the nineties,” for example, or this piece at Pacific Standard on “WRESTLING, POLITICS, AND THE VIOLENT REALITIES OF 2016.”

Then, or even beforehand, make sure to read this wonderful story of Oliver’s on Dennis “Denny” Hastert at Russ Smith’s delightful Splice Today. Here’s an excerpt to get you started — and make sure to check back here Friday for his story on the Enquirer and keep your eyes peeled for a link to Oliver’s recent appearance on the brand new, Washington Babylon podcast, which will be broadcast next week and also features Natalie Shure and Olivia Becker.

Oh yeah, here’s the excerpt:

Now once upon a time, not too long ago, one of the most powerful men in the world was paying millions of dollars in hush money to the victims he had sexually assaulted.

Yet Dennis Hastert, the longest-serving Republican Speaker of the House in history, has somehow already vanished from our collective memory banks. He lingered for a few postmortems in the prestige papers, and then that was that. A colorless, shambling man again faded into the scenery, his departure every bit as unremarkable as his arrival.

Hastert had seized control of Congress in 1999 to bring order to a rowdy Republican Party that had collapsed under the weight of Monica Lewinsky-mania and its consequences. Newt Gingrich, an entertaining but gaffe-prone blowhard who’d failed to deliver on his Contract with America, resigned the speakership after the GOP performed poorly during 1998’s “Lewinsky midterms.” Then Gingrich’s designated successor, Bob Livingston of Louisiana, chose to retire from public life after Hustler publisher Larry Flynt told the media that Livingston had engaged in extramarital relations.

This was the beginning of a real golden age for sex scandals and the subsequent resignations, pleas for forgiveness, and falls from grace. Gary Hart had opened the floodgates in the 1980s, taunting National Enquirer photographers to catch him if they could, but it was only after the Lewinsky liaison leaked that sex between consenting adults became sufficient to torpedo careers. In short order, cads on both sides of the aisle, from cherub-cheeked John Edwards on the left to suntanned Mark Sanford on the right, would bite the dust. As was the case with Sanford and the even randier Anthony Weiner, they sometimes came back—every political hack could come back, it seemed, given enough time, a makeover, and a sufficient number of mea culpas.

Then you had Hastert….

To read the rest of the story, click here.

 

 

Donald Trump, Charles Manson And The Partridge Family: The Untold Connection

On November 19, the leader of the Manson family died. Two days later, the leader of the Partridge Family died. Just a coincidence?

As an excommunicated former member of a certain Austin-based conspiracy cult, that was the first question that came to mind. So in an attempt to connect these two unconnected things, I decided to investigate, beginning with my record collection.

The first record I ever bought was a Partridge Family album. It was probably 1972, when I was in second grade.

I had already been gifted the Hanna-Barbera recording of Pinocchio a few years earlier, along with a portable General Electric record player to play it on. After listening to Pinocchio for a few years, I figured it was time to get another record.

I was in K-Mart one day with my mother, and when I asked if she would buy me a record, she said OK. I chose the Partridge Family album Sound Magazine. I don’t know why I picked that one. I wasn’t really a fan of the TV show, but I had certainly seen it. It was probably the only thing in the record bin that I recognized.

I still have that record, and when David Cassidy died the other day, I dug it out for the first time in about 45 years.

As a kid, I didn’t know The Partridge Family was a fake band — that frequently overlooked subcategory of fake news. Actually, the band was only partially fake, because David Cassidy (Keith Partridge) sang on the record, as did his real-life stepmother and Academy Award-winning Hollywood musical diva, Shirley Jones (Shirley Partridge).

I also didn’t know The Partridge Family was modeled on The Cowsills, which was a real family and a real band, as told in the grim, must-see documentary Family Band: The Cowsills Story.

As a kid, yet another thing I didn’t know was that The Partridge Family was part of a musical genre known as “Bubblegum,” which was dominated by fake bands who were strategically marketed to be apolitical and trivial at a time of great political and social upheaval.

Examining the liner notes to Sound Magazine with adult eyes, I see that the The Partridge Family band actually consisted of some of the best musicians money can buy.

The drummer was Hal Blaine, who has drummed on probably more records than anybody.

The bass player was Max Bennett, a name I know because he totally kicked ass on Frank Zappa’s pioneering jazz-rock album Hot Rats.

There are two guitar players listed, both of them heavyweights. One is Dennis Budimir, whose name I know from another Zappa album, Lumpy Gravy, but who is best-known for playing with almost every jazz legend you can think of.

The other guitarist, Louie Shelton, has also played on countless records, and is particularly famous for his immortal riff on “Last Train To Clarksville” by The Monkees, the greatest fake band of all.

In the crucial section of liner notes called “My Favorite Things,” it says Cassidy’s favorite song was “The Thrill is Gone,” which was first time I ever heard the name B.B. King, and I never forgot it.

Another detail from the liner notes is not so interesting, however. There’s a song called “Echo Valley 2-6809,” which is a fake telephone number from back when telephone numbers contained words. I didn’t know then, and still don’t know, where “Echo Valley” is. But I’m pretty sure it doesn’t refer to a big-bosomed gal named Echo Valley, whose picture came up when I Googled the words “Echo Valley.”

As for Echo Valley the song, I now see it was co-written by Rupert Holmes — the guy responsible for the ghastly “Pina Colada Song,” which Americans loved so much that it became the last #1 hit of the 1970s.

Die, Rupert Holmes, Die.

By that time, The Partridge Family had been off the charts for years, ever since David Cassidy attempted to murder Keith Partridge by posing nude for Annie Leibovitz in a 1972 issue of Rolling Stone.

The famous photographer recalled: “He did this thing he really shouldn’t have done and got into deep trouble for it. In retrospect, I feel sad. But since the shoot, I’ve seen him on a couple of occasions, and he thanked me because he said it moved him on. He desperately wanted to get off the show and he sort of committed professional suicide to get out of his contract. That ended one period of his career.”

As Kim “Bette Davis Eyes” Carnes told Rolling Stone, he used to say: “The problem is my name is David Cassidy, and nobody takes what I do seriously.”

But even after shedding his Partridge alter-ego, he still was never taken seriously as a musician. He ended up on The Apprentice, where Donald Trump fired him for being “weak.”

You know who would’ve made a great Apprentice? Charlie Manson. A ruthless con artist with a killer instinct. He, too, was a musician who nobody took seriously.

 

The Professor of Waterboarding: Study Ethics With Legal Ace Who Sanctioned CIA Torture

Happy Holiday. I’m pretty much taking the next week few days off and will begin posting again regularly on Monday. Until then, we’ll have a fresh item or two, but will largely stick to posting old favorites.

Here I’m posting, “IRONY 101: STUDY ETHICS WITH LEGAL ACE WHO SANCTIONED NSA WIRETAPPING, CIA TORTURE,” which previously ran at The Intercept, on December 22 2014. I detest The Intercept and have asked it to take down my work from its site. It has refused, so until it does I will keep publishing my old stories from there, without linking to its site.

This story describes the work of pro-torture professor Robert Deitz and how he instructs his students in the joys of waterboarding.

*******

Waterboarding: Yes or no? It’s OK to selectively violate the Geneva Convention, right? Spying on Americans is illegal, but aren’t rules made to be broken?

The world is a confusing place and it’s hard for young people to answer complicated questions like these on their own. Fortunately, students at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, have Professor Robert Deitz to help them navigate the contemporary moral morass. “All of us are familiar with basic ethical notions,” he writes in the syllabus for his Spring 2015 course, Ethical Challenges in Public Policy. “We learn from childhood the idea that some conduct is right and other conduct is not right.”

How’d Deitz get so smart about ethics? He’s magna cum laude from Harvard (like President Obama) and then spent eights years as General Counsel at the National Security Agency, serving as the official Yes Man for General Michael Hayden, and after that three years as his Senior Councillor at the Central Intelligence Agency until 2009. At the former post Deitz rubber-stamped NSA surveillance. At the latter, he sought to derail an independent investigation by then-CIA Inspector General John Helgerson into the agency’s torture and rendition of terrorism suspects.

After retiring from public service Deitz joined GMU as Distinguished Visiting Professor & CIA Officer-in-Residence, and he’s now on the regular faculty. In his course syllabus Deitz (also author of “Congratulations — You Just Got Hired: Don’t Screw It Up”) promises that “ethical matters of current interest will be discussed in class.”

For Professor Deitz, waterboarding is as ethical as apple pie.

For example, during Week 11 Deitz will help students resolve the following questions:

“Should (may) the government lie? Specifically, should (may) the Executive lie to Congress? To the people? Are there degrees of governmental lying? Should (may) government lawyers be aggressive in their interpretations of law so as to find Executive programs and conduct lawful?”

(Note to GMU students: Answer “no”to any of those questions on the final exam and you get an F.)

GMU students can also study this Spring with Deitz’s old boss, Hayden, who’ll be offering a course in Intelligence and Public Policy. (Maybe GMU decided that lying to congress and being the point man defending “rectal rehydration” disqualified him from teaching ethics?) Required texts include “Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives,” by Jose Rodriguez, the former head of the agency’s Counterterrorism Center.

According to the syllabus, Hayden’s course will provide case studies that “illustrate the peculiar challenges posed by covert action, changing political mores, targeted killings, the alleged politicization of intelligence, increased demands for transparency and accountability and other ‘hot button’ issues.”

The topic for Class 7 is, Read all about it! Intelligence and the press. When secrets leak. The publicright to know.” The quotation marks pretty much give away Hayden’s personal point of view.

Thirty percent of a student’s grade depends on a “Scholarly Paper,” which is not to exceed eight pages. The syllabus notes that GMU has a “zero tolerance policy”on plagiarism, and it looks like Professor Hayden is making good use of his experience from NSA’s bulk surveillance: “[A]ll written work submitted in partial fulfillment of course or degree requirements must be available in electronic form so that it can be compared with electronic databases.”

Hayden’s syllabus cites a lengthy section of GMU’s policy on the matter. “Plagiarism is wrong because of the injustice it does to the person whose ideas are stolen,” it reads. “But it is also wrong because it constitutes lying to one’s professional colleagues. From a prudential perspective, it is shortsighted and self-defeating, and it can ruin a professional career.”(Students may have a hard time taking that seriously since lying didn’t do anything to damage Hayden’s career; it just got him on cable news.)

So for Hayden, plagiarism is an unforgivable crime. Forcing pureed hummus, raisins and pasta up a man’s rectum? Not so much.

GMU, give this man an ethics class.

Swamp Drainer & Giant Ant Killer Tina-Desiree Berg On Sleazy DC Lobbyists

The freaking awesome Tina-Desiree Berg, the actress, writer, genius and equal parts left brain/right brain, is a guest on our brand new podcast, which IMHO you would literally be insane not to check out.
Tina — that’s what her besties call her for short — talked about how the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is overrun by lobbyists, who are a plague of locusts in both parties. “If we don’t correct this problem we’re going to be looking at another Trump or someone like that and I really don’t need or want that in my life,” Tina recently told Washington Babylon, in an exclusive interview.
Tina also recently wrote about the topic in our pages, in a piece titled “Harold Ickes and other Vile Toads that Run the DNC.” I should also note that Tina — who may or not be the woman pictured below — is a co-star of the new Luscious Ladies podcast, along with Washington Babylon regulars Bourgeoise Alien and Judy Jones.
Luscious Ladies’s producer David Slavick is our podcast co-producer, with Tom Anderson. Incidentally, my co-host for the show is the fab Monique Miles.
Hey, Tina-Desiree, is that you?
Tina is also — come on, do you ever sleep? — a film producer and was a B-movie actress in Bikini Hotel (Parental Warning) and GiAnts. I can honestly say that Tina is what makes these movies worth watching.
Anyway, on the podcast Tina and I talked about sleaze lobbyists, like Minyon “Minion” Moore and other creep-o Democrats at the firm of Dewey Square Group. This firm has a lot of African-Americans in senior positions — people who typically served in, or leeched off, the Bill Clinton and Barack Obama administrations.
Here are a few of Tina’s remarks — and make sure to check out the whole podcast, which also features an amazing interview with CIA torture whistleblower John Kiriakou.
Minyon Moore recently said, “What I do for a living is help corporations get to where your values are.” That’s the loaded gun statement of the year. What they’re doing is saying we’re not lobbyists, we’re consultants, and they’re helping corporations frame their message so they can sell it to the Democratic base, it’s completely nefarious.

 

Swamp Drainer & Giant Ant Killer Tina-Desiree Berg On Sleazy DC Lobbyists

The freaking awesome Tina-Desiree Berg, the actress, writer, genius and equal parts left brain/right brain, is a guest on our brand new podcast, which IMHO you would literally be insane not to check out.
Tina — that’s what her besties call her for short — talked about how the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is overrun by lobbyists, who are a plague of locusts in both parties. “If we don’t correct this problem we’re going to be looking at another Trump or someone like that and I really don’t need or want that in my life,” Tina recently told Washington Babylon, in an exclusive interview.
Tina also recently wrote about the topic in our pages, in a piece titled “Harold Ickes and other Vile Toads that Run the DNC.” I should also note that Tina — who may or not be the woman pictured below — is a co-star of the new Luscious Ladies podcast, along with Washington Babylon regulars Bourgeoise Alien and Judy Jones.
Luscious Ladies’s producer David Slavick is our podcast co-producer, with Tom Anderson. Incidentally, my co-host for the show is the fab Monique Miles.
Hey, Tina-Desiree, is that you?
Tina is also — come on, do you ever sleep? — a film producer and was a B-movie actress in Bikini Hotel (Parental Warning) and GiAnts. I can honestly say that Tina is what makes these movies worth watching.
Anyway, on the podcast Tina and I talked about sleaze lobbyists, like Minyon “Minion” Moore and other creep-o Democrats at the firm of Dewey Square Group. This firm has a lot of African-Americans in senior positions — people who typically served in, or leeched off, the Bill Clinton and Barack Obama administrations.
Here are a few of Tina’s remarks — and make sure to check out the whole podcast, which also features an amazing interview with CIA torture whistleblower John Kiriakou.
Minyon Moore recently said, “What I do for a living is help corporations get to where your values are.” That’s the loaded gun statement of the year. What they’re doing is saying we’re not lobbyists, we’re consultants, and they’re helping corporations frame their message so they can sell it to the Democratic base, it’s completely nefarious.

 

Yeah, Sure, #Resistance, Let’s Pretend Bill Clinton Isn’t A Sexual Predator

I remember like yesterday the 1998 lame duck congressional hearings (prompted by Paula Jones) about then-president Bill Clinton that resulted in his impeachment the following year. As a good little Democrat at the time, I found it fucking outrageous.

I remember listening to the hearings on NPR while driving from Manhattan to New Jersey — I may have been dozing off, as everyone does when listening to public radio — to go to this new awesome store called, IKEA. I remember screaming in the car at the hypocrisy of the Republicans. As hard as it might be to believe for my younger lefty friends, AT THE TIME we were SO ANGRY at the Republicans.

We could talk forever about Monica Lewinsky, Anita Flowers, Juanita Broderick, and the list goes on. I remember clearly how Monica was painted as “loony,” by many women, including Maureen Dowd and Diane Blair, a close friend and longtime confidant of the former First Lady:

“It was a lapse, but she says to his credit he tried to break it off, tried to pull away, tried to manage someone who was clearly a ‘narcissistic loony toon;’ but it was beyond control,” Blair wrote about a conversation she had with Clinton on September 9, 1998, during the height of the Lewinsky scandal that led to her husband’s impeachment.

And wasn’t that the vibe? Wasn’t that what all of us who are old enough to remember remember? We were somehow led to feel antipathy not just towards Monica, but ALL women that had spoken out against the serial sex harasser Bill Clinton.

We remember Hillary Clinton sitting with Matt Lauer and calling it all a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” And that attitude is still embraced by the fake-ass #Resistance. Go check their timelines now. Watch the mental gymnastics Hillary supporters do in regards to Bill Fuck Face Clinton.

Remember, Hillary ran for the senate and we were OF COURSE supposed to cheer her on. And confession, most of us freaking did.

As I look back, it’s astonishing to me that we actually deemed her “heroic” for fighting off the right-wing. Was Hillary smeared? YES. Were moronic AM talk show hosts like Monica Crowley, Laura Ingraham and, well all of them, OBSESSED with all things Hillary? YES. ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY.

This onslaught of attacks made us rally around her more. I know, because I didn’t know ONE PERSON who didn’t defend her horrible husband and her enabling him at the time. Including me. That’s just a goddam fact.

But it is LONG PAST TIME we ALL come to terms with Bill Clinton’s treatment of women. I keep thinking of Juanita Broaddrick. I remember during the general election of 2016 and being told that those tales of hers were fucking insanity.

I was shown a write-up that people volunteering for Hillary were passing around. Some story about how Juanita had a “motivation” for “lying” regarding Bill Clinton raping her. Something incoherent about when Bill Clinton was Attorney General of Arkansas the allegation was made to somehow protect her brother from prosecution.

I remember thinking, what the ACTUAL FUCK?? Aren’t we supposed to believe women?

Juanita Broaddrick: Time for Truth.

And now, with all the revelations of movie moguls like Harvey Weinstein to Senator Al Franken — REALLY, AL??? — I’m seeing A LOT of idiocy and hypocrisy from the stupid as fuck #Resistance. It’s like they can’t possess more than one thought at the same time in their tiny little brains.

Is Trump horrid? YES. Was Franken’s behavior horrid? YES. And hey, #Resistance, SO WAS BILL CLINTON’S.

Al Franken is a big fat pig. Stop apologizing for him.

As I’ve stated many times, as long as Hillary is still around some people have a hard time acknowledging the shit-headedness of Bill Clinton. His deregulatory policies and the 1996 Telecommunication Act and the crime bill and welfare “reform” and gutting Glass-Steagall and Third Way, baby!!

And his TREATMENT OF WOMEN.

No, it’s NOT a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” not all of it. And hey, Hillary, aren’t you supposed to be a champion of women and feminism? When have YOU ever acknowledged what happened to these women, Hillary? You were WAY more than just FLOTUS. So give us a goddamn break.

And fake as fuck #Resistance, what the actual hell are you doing? Do you NOT see your own hypocrisy? Are you so enamored with all-things-Hillary that you can’t pull your head out of your ass?

It’s WAY overdue that we believe Bill Clinton’s victims. It’s WAY overdue that we believe Juanita Broaddrick.

So, #Resistance, this just in: It’s actually possible to possess a couple of thoughts at the same goddamn time. To wit, you morons:

Donald Trump is a predator. Bill Clinton is a predator. Hillary has enabled, at the minimum, Bill’s depredations. That’s just a fucking reality.

See, #Resistance, IT’S NOT HARD. Try HONESTY for once. Let Hillary go. Try it. I swear you’ll feel RELIEF.

Yeah, Sure, #Resistance, Let’s Pretend Bill Clinton Isn't A Sexual Predator

I remember like yesterday the 1998 lame duck congressional hearings (prompted by Paula Jones) about then-president Bill Clinton that resulted in his impeachment the following year. As a good little Democrat at the time, I found it fucking outrageous.

I remember listening to the hearings on NPR while driving from Manhattan to New Jersey — I may have been dozing off, as everyone does when listening to public radio — to go to this new awesome store called, IKEA. I remember screaming in the car at the hypocrisy of the Republicans. As hard as it might be to believe for my younger lefty friends, AT THE TIME we were SO ANGRY at the Republicans.

We could talk forever about Monica Lewinsky, Anita Flowers, Juanita Broderick, and the list goes on. I remember clearly how Monica was painted as “loony,” by many women, including Maureen Dowd and Diane Blair, a close friend and longtime confidant of the former First Lady:

“It was a lapse, but she says to his credit he tried to break it off, tried to pull away, tried to manage someone who was clearly a ‘narcissistic loony toon;’ but it was beyond control,” Blair wrote about a conversation she had with Clinton on September 9, 1998, during the height of the Lewinsky scandal that led to her husband’s impeachment.

And wasn’t that the vibe? Wasn’t that what all of us who are old enough to remember remember? We were somehow led to feel antipathy not just towards Monica, but ALL women that had spoken out against the serial sex harasser Bill Clinton.

We remember Hillary Clinton sitting with Matt Lauer and calling it all a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” And that attitude is still embraced by the fake-ass #Resistance. Go check their timelines now. Watch the mental gymnastics Hillary supporters do in regards to Bill Fuck Face Clinton.

Remember, Hillary ran for the senate and we were OF COURSE supposed to cheer her on. And confession, most of us freaking did.

As I look back, it’s astonishing to me that we actually deemed her “heroic” for fighting off the right-wing. Was Hillary smeared? YES. Were moronic AM talk show hosts like Monica Crowley, Laura Ingraham and, well all of them, OBSESSED with all things Hillary? YES. ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY.

This onslaught of attacks made us rally around her more. I know, because I didn’t know ONE PERSON who didn’t defend her horrible husband and her enabling him at the time. Including me. That’s just a goddam fact.

But it is LONG PAST TIME we ALL come to terms with Bill Clinton’s treatment of women. I keep thinking of Juanita Broaddrick. I remember during the general election of 2016 and being told that those tales of hers were fucking insanity.

I was shown a write-up that people volunteering for Hillary were passing around. Some story about how Juanita had a “motivation” for “lying” regarding Bill Clinton raping her. Something incoherent about when Bill Clinton was Attorney General of Arkansas the allegation was made to somehow protect her brother from prosecution.

I remember thinking, what the ACTUAL FUCK?? Aren’t we supposed to believe women?

Juanita Broaddrick: Time for Truth.

And now, with all the revelations of movie moguls like Harvey Weinstein to Senator Al Franken — REALLY, AL??? — I’m seeing A LOT of idiocy and hypocrisy from the stupid as fuck #Resistance. It’s like they can’t possess more than one thought at the same time in their tiny little brains.

Is Trump horrid? YES. Was Franken’s behavior horrid? YES. And hey, #Resistance, SO WAS BILL CLINTON’S.

Al Franken is a big fat pig. Stop apologizing for him.

As I’ve stated many times, as long as Hillary is still around some people have a hard time acknowledging the shit-headedness of Bill Clinton. His deregulatory policies and the 1996 Telecommunication Act and the crime bill and welfare “reform” and gutting Glass-Steagall and Third Way, baby!!

And his TREATMENT OF WOMEN.

No, it’s NOT a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” not all of it. And hey, Hillary, aren’t you supposed to be a champion of women and feminism? When have YOU ever acknowledged what happened to these women, Hillary? You were WAY more than just FLOTUS. So give us a goddamn break.

And fake as fuck #Resistance, what the actual hell are you doing? Do you NOT see your own hypocrisy? Are you so enamored with all-things-Hillary that you can’t pull your head out of your ass?

It’s WAY overdue that we believe Bill Clinton’s victims. It’s WAY overdue that we believe Juanita Broaddrick.

So, #Resistance, this just in: It’s actually possible to possess a couple of thoughts at the same goddamn time. To wit, you morons:

Donald Trump is a predator. Bill Clinton is a predator. Hillary has enabled, at the minimum, Bill’s depredations. That’s just a fucking reality.

See, #Resistance, IT’S NOT HARD. Try HONESTY for once. Let Hillary go. Try it. I swear you’ll feel RELIEF.

A Washington Babylon Listicle: Top 10 Reasons Why RussiaGate Blows

(1) No credible evidence has been given.

In the famous intelligence community assessment, the CIA, NSA, and FBI said: “We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.” However, in the same report, they also admitted that their judgments “are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.”

The lack of proof didn’t matter. The report was accepted as holy writ by the mainstream media, the Democratic Party and by Hollywood, or, as the Constitution spelled out, the executive, the legislative and the judiciary.

However, not everyone takes the intelligence community at its  word. Seymour Hersh, for example: “If you had a real estimate, you would have five or six dissents … An assessment is simply an opinion. If they had a fact, they’d give it to you. An assessment is just that. It’s a belief.”

(2) It’s beyond hypocrisy.

Those who are perpetuating the Russiagate outfreakage know that interfering in elections is American as apple pie. Including the mainstream media, as a sampling of headlines reveals:

  • “The long history of the U.S. interfering with elections elsewhere” (The Washington Post)
  • “The U.S. is no stranger to interfering in the elections of other countries” (The Los Angeles Times)
  • “Database Tracks History Of U.S. Meddling In Foreign Elections” (NPR)
  • “Political Meddling by Outsiders: Not New for U.S.” (The New York Times – in 1997)

(3) Hacking schmacking.

Noam Chomsky asked: “Is Russian hacking really more significant than … the Republican campaign to destroy the conditions for organized social existence, in defiance of the entire world? Or to enhance the already dire threat of terminal nuclear war? Or even such real but lesser crimes such as the Republican initiative to deprive tens of millions of health care and to drive helpless people out of nursing homes in order to enrich their actual constituency of corporate power and wealth even further? Or to dismantle the limited regulatory system set up to mitigate the impact of the financial crisis that their favorites are likely to bring about once again?”

(4) What’s wrong with meeting Russians?

Jack Matlock, the U.S. ambassador to Russia under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, wrote: “It is quite common for foreign diplomats to cultivate candidates and their staffs. That is part of their job. If Americans plan to advise the president on policy issues, they would be wise to maintain contact with the foreign embassy in question to understand that country’s attitude toward the issues involved … As the person in charge of our embassy in Moscow during several political campaigns, I would often set up meetings of candidates and their staffs with Soviet officials…I would say that any person who presumes to advise an incoming president on vital policy issues needs to understand the approach of the country in question and therefore is remiss if he or she does not consult with the embassy in question.”

(5) It’s a big nothingburger.

James O’Keefe (aka “The Ashton Kutcher of Journalism”) deserves credit for actually reporting the truth for once by tricking Van Jones into giving the game away. O’Keefe, who gained fame by bringing down the diabolical ACORN, runs the sleazy Project Veritas, inspired by Kutcher’s MTV series “Punk’d.” It specializes in using a hidden camera to record people without their knowledge, and then editing it in a misleading and dishonest manner before distributing it to gullible media outlets who publish it without a trace of skepticism. With a secret camera rolling, one of O’Keefe’s operatives approached Jones on the street and asked him what was “going to happen this week with the whole Russia thing.” Jones, unaware that he was being punk’d, replied: “The Russia thing is just a big nothingburger. There’s nothing there you can do.”

(6) Most Americans don’t give a shit about it.

Representative Tim Walz, a Minnesota Democrat, said most voters in his state don’t care about Russia-Trump investigation. “I did a 22-county tour … Nobody’s focusing on that,” he explained. Multiplied nationwide, it amounts to most Americans not giving a shit about it.

A June Harvard-Harris national poll confirmed what I bold-ly state above. The poll’s co-director, Mark Penn, said voters “are concerned that the investigations have become a distraction for the president and Congress that is hurting rather than helping the country.”

(7) It’s a distraction from what Americans do give a shit about.

Like the economy.

In a June 22 interview with MSNBC — one of the prime purveyors of RussiaGate — Ohio Democrat Tim Ryan said: “We can’t just talk about Russia because people back in Ohio aren’t really talking that much about Russia, about Putin…They’re trying to figure out how they’re going to make the mortgage payment, how they’re going to pay for their kids to go to college, what their energy bill looks like. And if we don’t talk more about their interests than we do about how we’re so angry with Donald Trump and everything that’s going on, then we’re never going to be able to win elections.”

Rachel Maddow on the set of MSNBC.

(8) It’s boring.

Fake news about Russia is as stale as 100-year-old borscht. Because that’s exactly how long it has been going on. Fortunately, before dying on November 11, the world’s only radical left-wing finance professor, Edward S. Herman, devoted his final article to a century of fake news about Russia:

“In a classic study [of news coverage] of Russia from February 1917 to March 1920, Walter Lippmann and Charles Merz found that ‘From the point of view of professional journalism the reporting of the Russian Revolution is nothing short of a disaster. On the essential questions the net effect was almost always misleading, and misleading news is worse than none at all.’ The editors’ zealous opposition to the communists led the paper to report atrocities that never happened, and to predict the imminent collapse of the Bolshevik regime no fewer than ninety-one times in three years.”

(9) It might lead to a Pussy Riot.

Within weeks of becoming America’s favorite fake Russian band in 2012 after running afoul of Putin, the American media spawned almost 2,500 fawning articles about Pussy Riot. The New York Times gave them op-ed space and in the first three months of 2014, the paper ran 23 articles praising them.

“They compose no songs, they make no recordings, they do not sing and dance at concerts for fans,” Diana Johnstone pointed out. “Their art consists of attracting attention by, among other things, taking off their clothes and copulating in a museum or masturbating with a dead chicken in a supermarket…Clever performance art may make a political point people can understand. But what is the message from public sex with dead poultry?”

(10) It makes liberals look like Infowars.

Hillary Clinton’s inconceivable loss to an honest-to-god American shit like Donald Trump caused embarrassed liberals to go searching for the real reason Hillary isn’t the president. Somebody must’ve tricked the “deplorables” into voting for this ridiculous billionaire, who has exactly zero in common with the common man and woman. It must’ve been the Russians. Who else? Hence, congressional investigations, a special prosecutor (revenge for Bill Clinton’s impeachable blow job) and an industry of foolish conspiracy theorists revved up to keep the paranoia flowing. (For more on that, watch for the Rogue’s Gallery of Russiagate Grifters, coming soon from Washington Babylon.)

(10) Any new scandal with the suffix “gate” applied to it is by definition stupid.

Listicle Benediction, by Allen Ginsberg:

America it’s them bad Russians. Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians. The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia’s power mad. She wants to take our cars from out our garages.

Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Reader’s Digest. Her wants our auto plants in Siberia. Him big bureaucracy running our filling stations. That no good. Ugh. Him make Indians learn read. Him need big black niggers. Hah. Her make us all work sixteen hours a day. Help. America this is quite serious.

Obama, Other Famed Leftists, Pissed At Being Left Off Encyclopedia Of American Left

Barack Hussein Obama, identified by Ann Coulter as “the most left-wing person to ever run for president of the United States,” is furious for not being included in the Encyclopedia of the American Left.

At 928 pages, the Encyclopedia is a thick, monumental tome which contains the names of about 3,000 American leftists and leftist organizations. It’s touted as “the most comprehensive guide available to the history of radical and progressive movements in America” covering “key figures, events, issues, organizations, and concepts, from Tom Paine to the Black Panther Party.” The Library Journal calls it “comprehensive” and “indispensible.”

But somehow the most left-wing person to ever run for president is not listed in it. “I was a community organizer, for Allah’s sake!” exclaimed former President Obama. “Everybody knows I was a disciple of Saul Alinsky. Remember Saul Alinsky? He’s in the book, for fuck’s sake!”

Nor does the Encyclopedia mention the “Godfather of the Left,” as George Soros is known by the non-partisan Media Research Center. “This displeases me greatly,” said Godfather Soros menacingly, while rubbing his fingernails against the underside of his chin. “They must’ve mistaken me for the Koch brothers.”

Although almost everyone in Hollywood is a card-carrying leftist, none of them appear in the book. So don’t bother searching for George Clooney or Gwyneth Paltrow, because they’re not there. Not even Barbra Streisand!

Not a single American mayor is listed in the Encyclopedia, either, despite the fact that “most American cities have been ruled by left-wingers for decades,” according to the centrist journal National Review. “This is outrageous,” complained former Newark mayor Cory Booker, who is known for openly disseminating messages to his constituents via social media. “I once tweeted all three volumes of Das Kapital, 140 characters at a time!” he bragged.

Amazon.com, too, was suspiciously overlooked, despite the fact that Mike Adams (aka “The Health Ranger”) unmasked it as “the Big Brother arm of the leftist thought police.”

Adams is also a fearless critic of the leftist media, which he says “includes the Huffington Post, New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, CNN, MSNBC and all the other sources of intolerant, hate-based, anti-American and anti-police media outlets that are now ripping this nation to shreds from the inside out.” But shockingly, none of those leftist media outlets appear in the Encyclopedia!

The absence of The Washington Post is particularly puzzling, considering that it is cited as an example of “the left” by The New York Times, which itself was positively identified by Ted Cruz as a “left wing rag.”

Time magazine, also cited as an example of “the left” by The New York Times, is also nowhere to be found in the Encyclopedia.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow is perhaps the most glaring omission of all. When she learned that her name appears nowhere in the Encyclopedia, she threatened to defect to another country, according to an anonymous source at the Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C.

The pasty loudmouth MSNBC host Chris Matthews, who was exposed as a “left-wing race-hustler” by the Media Research Center, is also inexplicably missing from the book. “THIS MUST BE SOME KIND OF JOKE” he yelled. “I’M THE MOST FREEBALLING LEFTIST THERE IS!”

General Electric, former parent company of NBC News, which runs MSNBC, issued the following statement: “We believe that our left-wing work over the years speaks for itself. From hiring Ronald Reagan as our spokesman in the 1950s to building nuclear weapons for the Pentagon, we have always been on the vanguard of the proletarian revolution. Our sale of NBC to another multinational corporation for billions of dollars is further proof of our unwavering commitment to a leftist agenda.”

Believe it or not, National Public Radio also failed to make the cut, although “there is no question NPR is a left-wing outfit,” as Bill O’Reilly observed from his no-spin zone. “I just don’t understand it,” said a perplexed Robert Siegel, host of NPR’s All Things Considered.

His on-air colleague, Melissa Block, blames the show Marketplace for the snub. “As big-time leftists, we at NPR hate that capitalistic show almost as much as we hate America, but for some reason we broadcast it anyway. And I think that’s probably why the Encyclopedia disqualified us.” Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal was having his hair varnished and could not be reached for comment.

[DISCLOSURE: This is satire. Like The Onion. It’s not true. It’s fake. Don’t believe it for a minute. Not to be taken internally. Or is it?]

Letters to the Editor: Rachel Maddow & NBC Suck and Trump/Panama Fall-Out, Et Al

In order to provide readers with more top quality content and make life as easy as possible for me, I’ve decided to start publishing an assortment of letters to the editor. Some of these are actual letters, or emails anyway, and some are things posted on social media about me and Washington Babylon.
But these aren’t just letters of praise, there’s really interesting information here. Note that these letters may have been lightly edited for clarity and length. The names of the writers have been omitted to protect the innocent, unless otherwise noted.
Here we go:
Letter 1 (JoAnn Wypijewski, legendary U.S. journalist)
Congratulations on the Trump/Panama report. But why does everything I read elsewhere about it say it was a ‘joint investigation of NBC and Reuters’ and barely mentions Global Witness and doesn’t mention you at all?
I read your interesting posts in Washington Babylon — especially the one about how journalism works. But I don’t understand how your year of work gets virtually erased in reports that seem to suggest (to the unknowing reader) that NBC/Reuters did all that work.
This probably sounds really naive, but back in the day (Alexander Cockburn’s Beat the Devil time) when we were drawing heavily on someone else’s reporting it was always heavily credited — and the lead investigator usually interviewed. Even the Times etc., when relying on, say, an Amnesty report or Human Rights Watch report, would not make it seem as if Times reporters had done all the work.
There always was, of course, a technique to highlight one’s own work even while giving credit, and certainly Beat the Devil did that, as did Washington Babylon the book, but still. More recently, when the Marshall Project funds investigations into criminal justice, prisons, etc. and then makes those available to the Times or Washington Post, it is very clear who did the main footwork.
So this seems weird, and wrong.
Richard Engel’s report for MSNBC, on the Rachel Maddow show, is pretty outrageous. He says ‘a team’ from Global Witness spent months on an investigation. When saying that the camera shows a small conference table in a sterile office with Patrick and three or four young white people who look like interns.

But the whole report, with Engel walking through archives in Panama or through the empty Trump building, interviewing Monte Friesner. etc., is couched in the ‘we’, ‘we’, ‘we’ of NBC/Reuters ‘exclusive investigation,’ and suggests that Engel is the real gumshoe here.

The whole thing — the contained shock of Engel and Patrick of Global Witness — is pretty funny (separate from the misrepresentations of who did the work), given that they act as if money laundering or corruption and real estate haven’t always gone hand in hand, as if there’s something special about drug dealers or oligarchs looking for ways to park and transform their ill gotten gains, as if ill gotten gain weren’t the essence of multinational capitalism.
I like Monte. I hate Richard Engel.

It really does reek of rip-off culture, and it’s not as if MSNBC  doesn’t know better because Rachel Maddow, who always lavishes praise on the brilliant reporting of Richard Engel, also lavishes praise on the reporting she draws from, often from the Washington Post, which she frequently calls one of the wonders of the modern world.

All other disagreement with Maddow aside, she does operate out of that old journalistic model, where, sure, you’re doing your pirouettes and adding value, but you’re also generous with crediting the original reporting, and making it crystal clear who did the long, hard investigation.

How many times did Alex refer to “an excellent report” from such and such at some often-obscure research shop, and one of us was on the phone with the “excellent investigator”, who was also credited? I remember trying to plug in synonyms for ‘excellent’ in the manuscript but often just letting it ride.

Letter 2 (From a reader in Panama)

Wow! Amazing report. Another huge accomplishment. The article has caused a firestorm here in Panama. Unlike offshore corps business, which is dominated by less than 10 law firms and employ less than 5,000 people, real estate is the biggest industry in Panama and has a huge impact in the economy. It was about time it cleaned up like the banks were forced to do.

How is the reaction so far?

Me: Thank you! Great reaction so far, NBC getting most of credit but I don’t care. Estoy feliz, hablamos luego.

Letter writer: You did the work, and that’s what matters

Letter 3, from my pal Ricky Martínez Benoit in Panama, via Facebook.

Yeah yeah yeah, now that’s on mainstream media, everyone’s sharing the story about Trump and Panama. But it was Mr. Ken Silverstein who did the whole work, and it’s him who deserves all the credit.

Oh, and he’s my bro. And I’m a very proud friend. Congratulations!!!!

Letters to the Editor: Rachel Maddow & NBC Suck and Trump/Panama Fall-Out, Et Al

In order to provide readers with more top quality content and make life as easy as possible for me, I’ve decided to start publishing an assortment of letters to the editor. Some of these are actual letters, or emails anyway, and some are things posted on social media about me and Washington Babylon.
But these aren’t just letters of praise, there’s really interesting information here. Note that these letters may have been lightly edited for clarity and length. The names of the writers have been omitted to protect the innocent, unless otherwise noted.
Here we go:
Letter 1 (JoAnn Wypijewski, legendary U.S. journalist)
Congratulations on the Trump/Panama report. But why does everything I read elsewhere about it say it was a ‘joint investigation of NBC and Reuters’ and barely mentions Global Witness and doesn’t mention you at all?
I read your interesting posts in Washington Babylon — especially the one about how journalism works. But I don’t understand how your year of work gets virtually erased in reports that seem to suggest (to the unknowing reader) that NBC/Reuters did all that work.
This probably sounds really naive, but back in the day (Alexander Cockburn’s Beat the Devil time) when we were drawing heavily on someone else’s reporting it was always heavily credited — and the lead investigator usually interviewed. Even the Times etc., when relying on, say, an Amnesty report or Human Rights Watch report, would not make it seem as if Times reporters had done all the work.
There always was, of course, a technique to highlight one’s own work even while giving credit, and certainly Beat the Devil did that, as did Washington Babylon the book, but still. More recently, when the Marshall Project funds investigations into criminal justice, prisons, etc. and then makes those available to the Times or Washington Post, it is very clear who did the main footwork.
So this seems weird, and wrong.
Richard Engel’s report for MSNBC, on the Rachel Maddow show, is pretty outrageous. He says ‘a team’ from Global Witness spent months on an investigation. When saying that the camera shows a small conference table in a sterile office with Patrick and three or four young white people who look like interns.

But the whole report, with Engel walking through archives in Panama or through the empty Trump building, interviewing Monte Friesner. etc., is couched in the ‘we’, ‘we’, ‘we’ of NBC/Reuters ‘exclusive investigation,’ and suggests that Engel is the real gumshoe here.

The whole thing — the contained shock of Engel and Patrick of Global Witness — is pretty funny (separate from the misrepresentations of who did the work), given that they act as if money laundering or corruption and real estate haven’t always gone hand in hand, as if there’s something special about drug dealers or oligarchs looking for ways to park and transform their ill gotten gains, as if ill gotten gain weren’t the essence of multinational capitalism.
I like Monte. I hate Richard Engel.

It really does reek of rip-off culture, and it’s not as if MSNBC  doesn’t know better because Rachel Maddow, who always lavishes praise on the brilliant reporting of Richard Engel, also lavishes praise on the reporting she draws from, often from the Washington Post, which she frequently calls one of the wonders of the modern world.

All other disagreement with Maddow aside, she does operate out of that old journalistic model, where, sure, you’re doing your pirouettes and adding value, but you’re also generous with crediting the original reporting, and making it crystal clear who did the long, hard investigation.

How many times did Alex refer to “an excellent report” from such and such at some often-obscure research shop, and one of us was on the phone with the “excellent investigator”, who was also credited? I remember trying to plug in synonyms for ‘excellent’ in the manuscript but often just letting it ride.

Letter 2 (From a reader in Panama)

Wow! Amazing report. Another huge accomplishment. The article has caused a firestorm here in Panama. Unlike offshore corps business, which is dominated by less than 10 law firms and employ less than 5,000 people, real estate is the biggest industry in Panama and has a huge impact in the economy. It was about time it cleaned up like the banks were forced to do.

How is the reaction so far?

Me: Thank you! Great reaction so far, NBC getting most of credit but I don’t care. Estoy feliz, hablamos luego.

Letter writer: You did the work, and that’s what matters

Letter 3, from my pal Ricky Martínez Benoit in Panama, via Facebook.

Yeah yeah yeah, now that’s on mainstream media, everyone’s sharing the story about Trump and Panama. But it was Mr. Ken Silverstein who did the whole work, and it’s him who deserves all the credit.

Oh, and he’s my bro. And I’m a very proud friend. Congratulations!!!!

Washington Post Publishes Pathetic Op-ed Tying Putin to Bernie Sanders

On November 12, the Washington Post published an op-ed by neo-conservative James Kirchick titled, “How will Democrats cope if Putin starts playing dirty tricks for Bernie Sanders (again)?”

The article tries to perpetuate the claim that Russia will help Bernie Sanders in the 2020 election against Donald Trump, but doesn’t directly engage this thesis at all. Instead, Kirchick relies on innuendo to push a claim that contradicts itself: The hacked WikiLeaks emails were released for the general election, providing Trump’s campaign with political ammunition against Clinton; there’s no evidence Sanders’ candidacy was aided, either directly or inadvertently by Russia.

One of Sanders’ campaign strategists who also worked for Barack Obama, Vitali Shkliarov, has even helped the campaigns of anti-Putin candidates in Russia. But Kirchik’s neo-McCarthyist tactic is meant to reduce Sanders’s popularity by aligning him with Russia.

Kirchick has developed a record for this tactic toward the left. In an August 2016 op-ed, he labeled The Nation‘s Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald and other journalists as “Putin’s Pawns” and “Trump-Loving,” in a reductionist article trying to portray journalists on the left as pro-Trump and pro-Russia using childish smears devoid of evidence against anyone who didn’t uncritically and loyally support Hillary Clinton.

Even a journalist from Super Hack David Brock’s Shareblue Media, which recently claimed Greenwald was funded by Putin, apologized for the accusation, but Kirchick has continued to double down on these baseless attacks, joining the ranks of conspiracy theorists like Louise Mensch. “When Russia interferes in the 2020 presidential election on behalf of Democratic nominee Senator Bernie Sanders, how will liberals respond?” he wrote.

ÜberMensch: Nut job beloved by liberals for loopy attacks on Trump. Yes, people will believe anything.

Kirchik substantiates his speculation about Sanders by rattling off evidence of overall Russian election interference, despite many of his citations — like Russian election interference in France and Germany — having been debunked or yet to be proven. In September 2017, USA Today reported that Germany’s election was experiencing more interference from the U.S. Right than any other foreign source. The head of France’s cyber security agency told the Associated Press in June 2017 that they found no evidence Russia hacked Macron’s campaign, despite previous claims to the contrary.

The entire accusation about Sanders and Russia is based on the speculation that Putin and the Kremlin has the power to intervene on the Vermont senator’s behalf. The only “evidence” to back this is that supporting him divides Americans, yet this could be said about supporting any politician. It just so happens that in this case, Sanders is a political opponent of many of the grifters promoting the RussiaGate investigation, including Kirchick.

The only case against Bernie Sanders tied to Russian election interference stems from a Russian-funded Facebook ad of a “Buff Bernie” cartoon from a coloring book. Total expenditures on the ad: less than $2.

Another story seeking to tie Sanders to Russian election interference was published by Huffington Post earlier this year, claiming that Russian bots tried to flood pro-Bernie Facebook groups with fake news. No evidence was cited in that article to prove any of the fake news sources were pushed by Russia. Two of the sources I spoke with used in the article tried to have their quotes removed because they were taken out of context, and one of them attested that pro-Clinton trolls inundated a few Sanders groups to undermine their influence.

The most likely scenario, hardly isolated to Sanders supporters, were that a couple of fake news outlets targeted popular Bernie groups to generate views. Based on an account from one of the people from Facebook that Huffington Post interviewed, some of the fake news sites were tracked to Macedonia, Albania, Panama, the U.S. and Eastern Europe, or were untraceable.

The reporters concluded that it must be Russian trolls without evidence. It makes sense for fake news outlets to host their websites overseas because many of them are created to generate quick and easy ad revenue. In December 2016, NBC News published an article about a partying teenager in Macedonia who makes thousands of dollars from fake news websites.

This obvious profit motive—the most simple explanation—was ignored to create a narrative that would generate its own sensational views, and later wound up as a segment on Rachel Maddow’s joke of a MSNBC show.

Kirchick isn’t the only neocon to recently repeat this claim about Sanders. Former independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin, a retired CIA official and “Never Trump” Republican who has built a social media following from his anti-Trump rhetoric, tweeted on November 14 that Sanders was “supported by the Kremlin.”

In lieu of evidence, McMullin, Kirchik and other neocons are depending on the hysteria surrounding Russia to fuel McCarthyist accusations toward political opponents, rather than have to engage them on policy.

LOUIS FREEH’S LATEST INVESTIGATION: BILLIONAIRE BUSINESSMAN ACCUSED OF BRIBING AFRICAN GOVERNMENT

[Note: I have repeatedly asked The Intercept to take down my work, since I don’t like the place nor do I consider it to be a news organization. It’s a tool for Pierre Omidyar, its dipshit owner, to win influence and, it appears, run dirty ops that advance his business and political interests.

Pierre Omidyar: Neither brains nor intelligence are this dipshit’s strong point.

The Intercept has refused to take down my work so I will just keep publishing it, without permission or a link. So here’s a still relevant 2015 story about former FBI director Louis Freeh. I am not updating the story but note that one of Freeh’s clients back then, the Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz, is currently at the center of a major international scandal which has mushroomed despite Freeh being hired to make it go away.

Steinmetz is typical of the shady clients that Freeh takes on, and it’s all the more inappropriate since as a former FBI director, he’s supposed to be interested in promoting law enforcement, not lawbreaking. As this story shows, all Freeh cares about is making money and cashing in on his time in federal service.]

Louis Freeh, the former FBI director whose wife was deeded half of a $3 million beachside penthouse by a businessman – just nine days after Freeh cleared that same businessman of wrongdoing –is onto a new job: Helping exonerate a billionaire businessman accused of bribing an African government.

As I reported here the other day, Freeh has made piles of money since leaving government service by hiring himself out to conduct allegedly independent corporate and political investigations.  These investigations are clearly a growth business, because now Freeh’s firm is helping coordinate the defense of an Israeli billionaire who is being investigated on three continents in regard to bribes he allegedly paid to win a mining stake in one of the world’s poorest countries.

The case involves Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz, who controls BSGR, a holding company that in 2008 obtained a huge stake in a gigantic iron mine in the West African nation of Guinea. BSGR reportedly paid nothing for its rights to Simandou and two years later flipped 51% of its stake to a Brazilian mining giant for $2.5 billion – twice the size of Guinea’s annual budget. The deal was consummated two weeks before the death of Lansana Conté, a homicidal dictator who had ruled since a 1984 coup.

An investigation by the current government of Guinea found that a shell company controlled by BSGR paid at least $2.4 million to Mamadie Touré, a wife of the former dictator, in return for her help in acquiring the rights to the mine for BSGR. Earlier this year the government annulled BSGR’s stake in the mine, saying the firm had obtained it through corruption.

Police in France and Switzerland raided offices linked to Steinmetz, and in the United States, there is an ongoing court case in the Southern District of New York about the Simandou affair as well as a huge Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigation led by the Justice Department. The Justice Department could indict Steinmetz if it’s shown that he played a direct role in paying bribes.

(See this fantastic New Yorker account if you want the full story. Also see the great work by Global Witness.)

As Bloomberg has reported, Steinmetz has hired up a virtual dream team to defend him in the various investigations, including Freeh’s firm and the law firm of former senator Joe Lieberman. The firms are retained through the Lichtenstein-based Balda Foundation, which indirectly owns BSGR (and whose top trustee is a Swiss lawyer named Marc Bonnant, who has represented Steinmetz and is the billionaire’s longtime friend).

A well-placed source told me that lawyer Alan Dershowitz is also working on Steinmetz’s behalf. I contacted Dershowitz and he confirmed that he was consulting with a legal team retained by Steinmetz at the powerhouse law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. The Skadden team, he said, is led by David Zornow, a former federal prosecutor and now, according to his firm bio, “global head of Skadden’s Litigation/Controversy practices.” (I have a call out to Zornow asking him to confirm this arrangement, and will update this post if he responds.)

Last July, a U.S. judge sentenced Frenchman Frederic Cilins, who is suspected of being Steinmetz’s bagman and emissary, to a two-year prison term. He was originally charged with trying to convince Mamadie Toure to destroy evidence in the case and lie to investigators about how BSGR obtained its Simandou stake. He was caught on tape trying to convince Mamadie Toure to leave the United States to avoid having to testify before a grand jury (Toure, who lives in Florida, is cooperating with investigators and wore a wire when Cilins approached her). He pled guilty to obstruction of justice.

My source said that the role of Freeh’s firm is to conduct an internal corporate investigation of BSGR and determine whether Steinmetz had knowledge of bribes being paid, or if he was out of the loop and hence if illegal payments were made he would have been unaware of them.

BSGR has strongly denied any wrongdoing, but it’s going to be a tricky case, even for Steinmetz’s dream team. But something tells me that Freeh could be just the right guy to exonerate Steinmetz of wrongdoing.

Trump 2020: Why I Oppose Impeachment

So I broke the big political story of the day about President Donald Trump’s deep ties to a wide range of alleged Russian mafiosos, financial and real estate grifters and narcos. You can read about it here and here, the latter being a report by Global Witness for which I was the lead investigator.

It’s a devastating story, if I don’t say so myself, and shows how Trump and this seamy cast of characters profited together in a major Trump project in Panama, which allowed monylaundering by criminals to run amok. But let me explain why I still think the RussiaGate investigation (and related media coverage) is largely delusional, and why I, until now, think that calls for impeachment of Trump or forcing him out early are reckless and nuts.

What I found, and others have reported similarly troubling stories, is truly sordid. But, and I’m no lawyer, I don’t know if anything I discovered amounts to an impeachable offense. Even if it does, good luck proving it.

The same goes for other stories I’ve seen so far, as well as what I know of Robert Mueller’s investigation. The over-rated Mueller clearly is out to get Trump, fairly or unfairly. I believe he’s trying to set up Trump for a perjury charge — which would be easy, the guy is a pathological liar who can’t remember what he said from one hour to the next — which in my view would be a pity.

Anyway, if it is shown that Trump committed an impeachable offense, good riddance. Until then, the only legitimate way to remove him is in an election. (Otherwise we get Mike Pence and Paul Ryan. Good luck with that.)

Sadly, the brain dead Democratic Party nominated the godawful and corrupt Hillary Clinton to run against him last year. Currently it has no program other than insane anti-Trumpism and conspiracy theories about Russia, so these idiots could well manage to blow a 2020 election against the godawful, corrupt Trump.

Also, a brief note on George Soros: He’s a funder of Global Witness, so, at least indirectly, I benefited from his largesse. Don’t bother letting me know. I have criticized him many time over the years and will continue to do so, even if he gives me $1 million for WashingtonBabylon.com.

He’s still an oligarch with undue influence as far as I’m concerned, and he’s not buying any positive coverage from me.

How I Broke Story Of Russian Mafia, And Latin American Drug Cartel Cash, Pouring Into Trump’s Panama Project

You’re going to be hearing a lot about Donald Trump’s business ties in Panama to a rather extraordinary set of characters, including people with reported links to Russian criminals, some allegedly mafiosos, and a key Colombian that laundered vast sums of money for Latin American drug cartels — and who is currently serving time in a U.S. prison for illegally moving cash into the United States.

In fact, without the money brought in by these shady figures — the cast reads like a cross between Goodfellas and Narcos — it’s fair to say that Trump and his local partner in Panama would never have been able to build the Trump International Hotel & Tower Panama, which became one of his most lucrative overseas deals.

And keep in mind that this was not merely a licensing deal where he received fees for the use of his name. In Panama, he and his family — Ivanka and Eric, in particular — ran companies that managed nearly 1,000 combined hotel rooms and condo units.

I took the story to Global Witness and was the lead investigator on the project, having worked worked on it for this entire year. It was released today in a report — NARCO-A-LAGO: MONEY LAUNDERING AT THE TRUMP OCEAN CLUB PANAMA — and NBC and Reuters have put out stories as well. I’ve talked to reporters from a variety of other places and I expect it’s going to get picked up by large number of news print and broadcasting outlets.

(I’ll have a lot more on this story later today and next week, including critical information that won’t be published anywhere else.)

Here’s an excerpt from the top of the report:

In the early 2000s, a series of bankruptcies meant Donald J. Trump was shunned by most lenders. Struggling for credit, he started selling his name to high-end real estate projects. This report examines in detail the criminal connections that propelled one such project – the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama – and how this case bears some of the same disturbing hallmarks as other Trump developments.
Since he became President of the United States, numerous investigations and articles have probed Trump’s business dealings and his alleged links to criminals and other shadowy characters…

Trump may not have deliberately set out to facilitate criminal activity in his business dealings. But, as this Global Witness investigation shows, licensing his brand to the luxurious Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama aligned Trump’s financial interests with those of crooks looking to launder ill-gotten gains. Trump seems to have done little to nothing to prevent this. What is clear is that proceeds from Colombian cartels’ narcotics trafficking were laundered through the Trump Ocean Club and that Donald Trump was one of the beneficiaries…

Another was Murcia Guzmán’s business associate, Alexandre Henrique Ventura Nogueira, who brokered nearly a third of the 666 pre-construction unit sales at the Trump Ocean Club and claims to have sold 250-400 units overall. Ventura Nogueira’s sales brokerage was critical to ensuring the project’s lift-off and Trump’s ability to earn tens of millions of dollars…

The warning signs were there from the outset. The Trump Ocean Club, one of Trump’s most lucrative licensing deals to date, was announced in 2006 and launched in 2011, a period when Panama was known as one of the best places in the world to launder money. Whole neighborhoods in Panama City were taken over by organized crime groups, and luxury developments were built with the purpose of serving as money laundering vehicles.

Moreover, investing in luxury properties is a tried and trusted way for criminals to move tainted cash into the legitimate financial system, where they can spend it freely. Once scrubbed clean in this way, vast profits from criminal activities like trafficking people and drugs, organized crime, and terrorism can find their way into the U.S. and elsewhere. In most countries, regulation is notoriously lax in the real estate sector. Cash payments are subject to hardly any scrutiny, giving opportunistic and unprincipled developers free rein to accept dirty money.

In the case of the Trump Ocean Club, accepting easy – and possibly dirty – money early on would have been in Trump’s interest; a certain volume of pre-construction sales was necessary to secure financing for the project, which stood to net him $75.4 million by the end of 2010. Trump received a percentage of the financing he helped secure, and a cut on the sale of every unit at the development.

He and his family have made millions of dollars more from management fees and likely continue to profit from the Trump Ocean Club. Eager for the project’s success, Trump and his children have participated directly in marketing, management, and even project design. According to broker Ventura Nogueira, Trump’s daughter Ivanka attended at least 10 meetings with him and project developer Roger Khafif.

A large number of those involved with the Trump Ocean Club in its early phase were Russian and Eastern European citizens or diaspora members. In an interview with NBC and Reuters, Ventura Nogueira said that 50 percent of his buyers were Russian, and that some had “questionable backgrounds.” He added that he found out later that some were part of the Russian Mafia.

 I’ll tell you a bit more below — and read that Global Witness report for the full story — but I also want to tell you, because in this day and age you have to take journalism credit when credit is due, how I broke today’s news.

I first heard about Trump’s shady ties in Panama and the Trump project — one of his most lucrative overseas deals — in August of 2016. I’d reported from Panama before, when I published the first account about Mossack Fonseca — long before the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists won a Pulitzer Prize for publishing stories based on curiously selective leaks of the firm’s emails.

I was intrigued by what I heard about Trump’s Panama deal but the story was complex — it’s not hard to follow after spending more than a year reporting it, but at the time it seemed immensely complicated — and it was too close to the election to do it properly. Plus, I figured Hillary would win the election anyway and there’d be no interest in the story.

I did a short item for Washington Babylon about it on October 6, 2016 — I deleted it after I started my investigation — but here’s the proof. Anyway, to make a long story short, I pitched the story to Global Witness last January and it was approved in March.

I moved to Miami for most of this year — a lot of people involved in the story are there — traveled to Panama for 18 days in April and May, and to Canada to interview sources as well. I did hundreds and hundreds of interviews during the course of the year, including cold-calling and door-knocking a number of alleged members of the Russian mafia, at home and abroad.

I was also traveling regularly between Miami, Washington and New York to talk to people and dig for information. Global Witness provided tremendous support for the project and I worked on it up until the last minute, helping with fact-checking, reporting and, in a minor way, managing sources and the media.

NBC got involved a few months ago, after I briefed them on the story for Global Witness, and Reuters got involved more recently. Let me emphasize here that I didn’t write the Global Witness report’s conclusions and recommendations, and may or may not share them. I have not yet seen NBC or Reuters coverage — I don’t watch TV news at all so I have no interest in seeing their stories, and I couldn’t have caught the Today show anyway as I have a nasty hangover because I saw an absolutely incredible concert by Lucero last night in Baltimore — and almost certainly will not agree with the conclusions they drew either.

You may find my taking credit here obnoxious, but when other outlets start submitting their applications for journalism awards at least the judges will have some idea of how to evaluate their work. I also see this as a reply to a few people who have written me or posted on social media that I no longer do “serious” reporting.

First off, to those latter shit heads, who made you the gatekeepers of what’s serious reporting? Second, about 80 percent of what I do at Washington Babylon is serious reporting. Getting people to read about politics is about as easy as getting kids (or me) to eat broccoli. I’m just trying to make it go down easier.

Lastly, I want readers to know that when you hear people talking about the serious, amazing investigation of Trump’s business interests in Panama, you wouldn’t be talking about it if I hadn’t investigated it — ages before anyone else — and miraculously, in this day and age, lobbied for and received the funding to do it right. Try it, Serious Reporters.

In terms of the report, check it out, but here are two key takeaways: Trump and the local developer did zero, or close to zero, due diligence in screening buyers and sellers of the units. That’s the key reason so much dirty money came in, to their great benefit.

Second, the project would never have happened without the dirty money that flowed in during the pre-construction phase. It was thanks to these early sales that Bear Stearns – the Wall Street giant whose collapse less than a year later triggered the global economic meltdown –- underwrote a $220 million bond issue to finance the project’s construction.

No dirty money, no project.

END PART 1

How I Broke Story Of Russian Mafia, And Latin American Drug Cartel Cash, Pouring Into Trump's Panama Project

You’re going to be hearing a lot about Donald Trump’s business ties in Panama to a rather extraordinary set of characters, including people with reported links to Russian criminals, some allegedly mafiosos, and a key Colombian that laundered vast sums of money for Latin American drug cartels — and who is currently serving time in a U.S. prison for illegally moving cash into the United States.

In fact, without the money brought in by these shady figures — the cast reads like a cross between Goodfellas and Narcos — it’s fair to say that Trump and his local partner in Panama would never have been able to build the Trump International Hotel & Tower Panama, which became one of his most lucrative overseas deals.

And keep in mind that this was not merely a licensing deal where he received fees for the use of his name. In Panama, he and his family — Ivanka and Eric, in particular — ran companies that managed nearly 1,000 combined hotel rooms and condo units.

I took the story to Global Witness and was the lead investigator on the project, having worked worked on it for this entire year. It was released today in a report — NARCO-A-LAGO: MONEY LAUNDERING AT THE TRUMP OCEAN CLUB PANAMA — and NBC and Reuters have put out stories as well. I’ve talked to reporters from a variety of other places and I expect it’s going to get picked up by large number of news print and broadcasting outlets.

(I’ll have a lot more on this story later today and next week, including critical information that won’t be published anywhere else.)

Here’s an excerpt from the top of the report:

In the early 2000s, a series of bankruptcies meant Donald J. Trump was shunned by most lenders. Struggling for credit, he started selling his name to high-end real estate projects. This report examines in detail the criminal connections that propelled one such project – the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama – and how this case bears some of the same disturbing hallmarks as other Trump developments.
Since he became President of the United States, numerous investigations and articles have probed Trump’s business dealings and his alleged links to criminals and other shadowy characters…

Trump may not have deliberately set out to facilitate criminal activity in his business dealings. But, as this Global Witness investigation shows, licensing his brand to the luxurious Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama aligned Trump’s financial interests with those of crooks looking to launder ill-gotten gains. Trump seems to have done little to nothing to prevent this. What is clear is that proceeds from Colombian cartels’ narcotics trafficking were laundered through the Trump Ocean Club and that Donald Trump was one of the beneficiaries…

Another was Murcia Guzmán’s business associate, Alexandre Henrique Ventura Nogueira, who brokered nearly a third of the 666 pre-construction unit sales at the Trump Ocean Club and claims to have sold 250-400 units overall. Ventura Nogueira’s sales brokerage was critical to ensuring the project’s lift-off and Trump’s ability to earn tens of millions of dollars…

The warning signs were there from the outset. The Trump Ocean Club, one of Trump’s most lucrative licensing deals to date, was announced in 2006 and launched in 2011, a period when Panama was known as one of the best places in the world to launder money. Whole neighborhoods in Panama City were taken over by organized crime groups, and luxury developments were built with the purpose of serving as money laundering vehicles.

Moreover, investing in luxury properties is a tried and trusted way for criminals to move tainted cash into the legitimate financial system, where they can spend it freely. Once scrubbed clean in this way, vast profits from criminal activities like trafficking people and drugs, organized crime, and terrorism can find their way into the U.S. and elsewhere. In most countries, regulation is notoriously lax in the real estate sector. Cash payments are subject to hardly any scrutiny, giving opportunistic and unprincipled developers free rein to accept dirty money.

In the case of the Trump Ocean Club, accepting easy – and possibly dirty – money early on would have been in Trump’s interest; a certain volume of pre-construction sales was necessary to secure financing for the project, which stood to net him $75.4 million by the end of 2010. Trump received a percentage of the financing he helped secure, and a cut on the sale of every unit at the development.

He and his family have made millions of dollars more from management fees and likely continue to profit from the Trump Ocean Club. Eager for the project’s success, Trump and his children have participated directly in marketing, management, and even project design. According to broker Ventura Nogueira, Trump’s daughter Ivanka attended at least 10 meetings with him and project developer Roger Khafif.

A large number of those involved with the Trump Ocean Club in its early phase were Russian and Eastern European citizens or diaspora members. In an interview with NBC and Reuters, Ventura Nogueira said that 50 percent of his buyers were Russian, and that some had “questionable backgrounds.” He added that he found out later that some were part of the Russian Mafia.

 I’ll tell you a bit more below — and read that Global Witness report for the full story — but I also want to tell you, because in this day and age you have to take journalism credit when credit is due, how I broke today’s news.

I first heard about Trump’s shady ties in Panama and the Trump project — one of his most lucrative overseas deals — in August of 2016. I’d reported from Panama before, when I published the first account about Mossack Fonseca — long before the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists won a Pulitzer Prize for publishing stories based on curiously selective leaks of the firm’s emails.

I was intrigued by what I heard about Trump’s Panama deal but the story was complex — it’s not hard to follow after spending more than a year reporting it, but at the time it seemed immensely complicated — and it was too close to the election to do it properly. Plus, I figured Hillary would win the election anyway and there’d be no interest in the story.

I did a short item for Washington Babylon about it on October 6, 2016 — I deleted it after I started my investigation — but here’s the proof. Anyway, to make a long story short, I pitched the story to Global Witness last January and it was approved in March.

I moved to Miami for most of this year — a lot of people involved in the story are there — traveled to Panama for 18 days in April and May, and to Canada to interview sources as well. I did hundreds and hundreds of interviews during the course of the year, including cold-calling and door-knocking a number of alleged members of the Russian mafia, at home and abroad.

I was also traveling regularly between Miami, Washington and New York to talk to people and dig for information. Global Witness provided tremendous support for the project and I worked on it up until the last minute, helping with fact-checking, reporting and, in a minor way, managing sources and the media.

NBC got involved a few months ago, after I briefed them on the story for Global Witness, and Reuters got involved more recently. Let me emphasize here that I didn’t write the Global Witness report’s conclusions and recommendations, and may or may not share them. I have not yet seen NBC or Reuters coverage — I don’t watch TV news at all so I have no interest in seeing their stories, and I couldn’t have caught the Today show anyway as I have a nasty hangover because I saw an absolutely incredible concert by Lucero last night in Baltimore — and almost certainly will not agree with the conclusions they drew either.

You may find my taking credit here obnoxious, but when other outlets start submitting their applications for journalism awards at least the judges will have some idea of how to evaluate their work. I also see this as a reply to a few people who have written me or posted on social media that I no longer do “serious” reporting.

First off, to those latter shit heads, who made you the gatekeepers of what’s serious reporting? Second, about 80 percent of what I do at Washington Babylon is serious reporting. Getting people to read about politics is about as easy as getting kids (or me) to eat broccoli. I’m just trying to make it go down easier.

Lastly, I want readers to know that when you hear people talking about the serious, amazing investigation of Trump’s business interests in Panama, you wouldn’t be talking about it if I hadn’t investigated it — ages before anyone else — and miraculously, in this day and age, lobbied for and received the funding to do it right. Try it, Serious Reporters.

In terms of the report, check it out, but here are two key takeaways: Trump and the local developer did zero, or close to zero, due diligence in screening buyers and sellers of the units. That’s the key reason so much dirty money came in, to their great benefit.

Second, the project would never have happened without the dirty money that flowed in during the pre-construction phase. It was thanks to these early sales that Bear Stearns – the Wall Street giant whose collapse less than a year later triggered the global economic meltdown –- underwrote a $220 million bond issue to finance the project’s construction.

No dirty money, no project.

END PART 1

Panama: A Photo Essay

I’ve been working all year on a very cool story that involved travel to Panama, among other places. I am not at liberty to discuss the findings — or to even remotely hint at the topic — but I should be tomorrow. Repeat, should. And you should be reading about it all over the place.

Meanwhile, I give you this photo essay from my trip to Panama, which took place last April and May. All pix by me.

And hopefully I’ll have a lot more tomorrow.

The Trump property. In marketing material, it’s described as looking like a sailboat. To me, it looks like an ugly slab of concrete.
Trump-branded chocolate, left on one of my fluffy pillows for 18 consecutive nights.
Bought purely for educational purposes at shop in lobby.
Restaurant in poor neighborhood of Rio Abajo.
Food at restaurant. Yummy.
Einstein Plaza.
Window of a really cool store that sells Cuban stuff.
Nice place to have a cocktail.
Mmmm, donuts. A cultural outing.

 

In the Rio Abajo neighborhood.
Street art. Not impossible this is Miami but I don’t think so. Anyone know?
Street scene in wonderful neighborhood of Caledonia.