Hack List 2017: International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Black Operative For Its Donors

Does the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)  really belong on Hack List 2017: No — and very most definitely, yes.
Let me explain.
ICIJ does good journalism and Jesse Drucker of the New York Times, who has teamed up with it, is one of the best journalists in the world.
Putting that (and Jesse) aside, how hard is it to take big donations from interested parties and publish leaked and hacked materials disguised as news (that benefits interested parties), all to great acclaim, including winning a Pulitzer Prize?
Answer: Not hard at all, and that’s what ICIJ does. And what’s worse, ICIJ’s stories are almost always boring. If you’re going to write about money laundering and offshore companies, for example, you have to sex it up. ICIJ manages to take these topics, which actually are interesting, and give them a bad name. To say that reading its work is like watching paint dry is unfair to drying paint.
Here’s another reason ICIJ richly merits inclusion on Hack List 2017. Journalists don’t like to examine each other, or their organs, and especially virtuous journalism non-profit organs like ICIJ and, to name just three more, Pulitzer Prize-winning Center for Public Integrity (CPI), which used to run ICIJ; ProPublica, another Pulitzer Prize winner; and InsideClimate News. They like to imagine and pretend that journalists and their employers are angelic virgins, which is about as believable as the Immaculate Conception.
Check out this rather astonishing story about how a foundation set up by a sleazy former Enron trader and hedge fund billionaire named John Arnold funds CPI and ProPublica. Years ago I worked on a book about Congress for CPI and the editor killed a chapter I had proposed and written about Enron’s role in energy deregulation. Kind of makes me wonder.
(Disclosure: Washington Babylon is a for-profit corporation. We are neither virtuous nor virginic, nor profitable for that matter. So fuck that bullshit. Speaking of ProPublica, those are very well paid virgins. And, yes, I’d obviously pay myself the same amount if I could, but I expect the quality and quantity of my work would decline. Furthermore, I’ve been paid by an assortment of non-profits in the past, most recently Global Witness, which receives money from the oligarch George Soros.)
So, sure, ICIJ (et al) periodically produces decent journalism, but remarkably little given its resources. And much of what it does do involves publishing hacked materials. I have nothing against that in principle but let’s be honest, hacked material is typically obtained illegally by rich people or, more commonly, their minions. When journalists publish it, the tainted origins are obscured but the information is almost always released with a business purpose in mind.

“Hacking and leaking have now become industries, it’s an established technique,” Philippe Vasset, co-author of a new book on the topic, recently told me. “ICIJ is a big player in the leak farm field, along with other journalism enterprises, activists, hackers, lawyers, PR executives, blackmailers, multinational corporations and intelligence agencies.”

Let’s step back for a moment.

A recent Vice News piece on HBO basically depicted ICIJ as a group of courageous crusaders fighting against the big, corrupt establishment under daunting odds. Except that ICIJ seems to be anything but a shoestring do-gooder organization, based on their slick website and lavish funding from pauper George Soros and other high rollers. Their media partners aren’t hurting for cash either: BBC, New York Times, Guardian and Asahi Shimbun, plus a long list of other outfits that don’t appear destitute.

In terms of its funders, what exactly is the Adessium Foundation? According to its website, it is “a private and independent grant making foundation, based in the Netherlands…Under long-term agreements Adessium Foundation periodically receives a donation from an affiliated foundation.”

Huh? And who, pray tells, funds that “affiliated foundation”? Adessium appears to be a discreet funding conduit for other outfits.

ICIJ’s other donors include Open Society Foundations — meaning George Soros —  Ford Foundation and the ghastly Omidyar Network, the chief financier of The Intercept. The whole thing sort of stinks of Establishment hit pieces, not “citizen action” and “investigative journalism.”

The Soros money — plus suspected indirect cash from mega-oligarch William Browder, the main promoter of the RussiaGate conspiracy — may explain ICIJ’s obsession with Vladimir Putin, the superstar of its Pulitzer Prize-winning Panama Papers stories, which were dictated from hacked, stolen materials.

(Disclosure: I exposed Mossack Fonseca — the sleazy law firm for oligarchs and dictators, whose files were hacked and delivered to ICIJ — a year before ICIJ, in a story for VICE. I worked on that story for over a year, and traveled to Panama and Las Vegas in doing so. You can read about it here in a VICE story titled, “The Journalist Who Blew the Whistle on Mossack Fonseca 18 Months Before the Panama Papers.“)

It’s curious that ICIJ’s Pulitzer-winning series, The Panama Papers, featured Putin so many times given that Putin didn’t even have an offshore account with Mossack Fonseca. It’s also curious that so few Americans were exposed by ICIJ.
“Most of the people and organizations that benefited from ICIJ’s Panama Papers work were hedge fund operators and billionaires,” said Vasset, the book author.”
Paul Singer, the oligarch, major GOP political donor, “vulture fund” operator and founder of  Elliott Management and NML Capital, was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Panama Papers expose. Singer’s firm had bought huge amounts of  discounted Argentine sovereign debt and wanted the country to pay up, ultimately making $2 billion on the deal while forcing the government to impose crippling austerity measures. Singer’s firm.
I don’t know if Singer or any of his firms donated money to ICIJ, but his companies were helping dig up and peddle dirt on corrupt Argentine officials who set up offshore firms with help from Mossack Fonseca.
ICIJ hasn’t written much, relatively speaking, about U.S. citizens and institutions who utilize offshore companies. Soros gets off surprisingly easy, perhaps because of his donations to the journalism outfit. One of its stories in its new “Paradise Papers” series, also based on leaks and which took “months to report,” focused on how “donors who funneled nearly $60 million to support Trump’s presidency used offshore” accounts.

That story had this brief section:

Private equity funds controlled by Democratic mega-donor George Soros used Appleby to help manage a web of offshore entities. One document details the complex ownership structure of a company called S Re Ltd that was involved in reinsurance, or insurance for insurers. The structure, a chart shows, included entities based in the tax havens of Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands. A spokesperson for Soros — who has donated money to ICIJ and other journalism outlets through his charitable organization, the Open Society Foundations — declined to comment for this story.

Given that Soros is one of the richest people on the planet, you’d think — haha — that ICIJ might have devoted a whole article, or two or three, to him.
Meanwhile, there’s a lot of information on U.S. entities, including think tanks and political organizations, that use offshore accounts and that is readily available via a Google search. It doesn’t take leaked or hacked information to report on these entities, but ICIJ has not pursued such low hanging fruit, maybe because it’s easier to go after Russians and other foreign individuals and companies who your donors want “exposed,” and to steer clear of more sensitive targets who you are politically sympathetic to, or might get money from.
To name just two, there are the awful “centrist” think tank Third Way and various groups tied to the Democracy Alliance, which is to the left what the Koch network is to the right and whose supporters include Soros and Democratic mega-donor Rob Stein. I can’t imagine why ICIJ has no interest in digging into these groups’ finances.
It’s perhaps most curious of all that ICIJ hasn’t reported much on Browder, the former American turned Irish citizen, apparently for tax purposes, who has used plenty of offshore accounts to lighten his fiscal load. Browder — who was recently exposed in this story by 100Reporters — was for Putin, when he was raking in vast profits from his Moscow-based Hermitage Capital Management holding company, before he was against him, when he was accused by Putin of tax fraud.
(Incidentally, Putin is a tyrant but he is right to be suspicious of journalists and NGOs, which he views as agents of regime change.)

Browder is another one of many ICIJ donors to utilize offshore vehicles. In fact, according to 100Reporters, Hermitage Capital Management “was built on corporate registrations authored by the Mossack Fonseca law firm.”

ICIJ exposed Mossack Fonseca’s leaked emails and records, including paperwork that names Browder, but, as noted above, had surprisingly little to say about him. Indeed, it portrays him as a hero, highlighting his advocacy on behalf of his corporate accountant Segei Magnitsky — handily misidentified by ICIJ’s Pulitzer-winning reporter as a lawyer — who died in prison.

Compare this excerpt from the 100Reporters story:

100Reporters investigation, published in 2014, illustrated how Russian titanium company, Avisma, in which Browder was an investor, used an Isle of Man shell company to “buy” titanium at fake low prices and sell it abroad at higher market prices, cheating both minority share-holders and Russian tax authorities. A lawsuit showed Browder knew that was the business plan.

According to corporate documents, Browder’s holding company, Hermitage Capital Management, was built on corporate registrations authored by the Mossack Fonseca law firm. That firm is the source of more than one million documents made public by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in its Panama Papers investigation, involving assets hidden through the use of shell companies and secret offshore accounts. Its disclosures have led to resignations by government officials worldwide, criminal investigations and charges of corruption against bureaucrats and business leaders.

Mossack Fonseca set up two companies in the British Virgin Islands, Berkeley Advisors and Starcliff, to hold shares in Hermitage. The Browder family home in Princeton, New Jersey, is registered by a Mossack Fonseca shell, Pepperdine Holdings Ltd. Browder’s $11-million vacation home in Aspen is also “owned” by a shell registered in an agent’s name. The US taxes offshore earnings. In 1998, Browder traded his US citizenship for one in the UK, which does not.

With this hand job from ICIJ:

Hermitage’s London-based chief Bill Browder devoted himself to pursuing those he holds responsible for the original crime and Magnitsky’s death. In English and Russian website campaigns, Browder has presented evidence that he says proves the tax heist was an inside job.

The case has become one of the biggest headaches faced by Russia’s government because it is said to have the potential implicate many of those in authority. A recent commission, appointed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, found that police fabricated charges against Magnitsky.

My guess is that 100Reporters won’t be winning a Pulitzer any time soon. And I guess it isn’t fair to pick on poor little ‘ol ICIJ, when a simple Google search reveals tht everyone from Vox to GQ has blown Browder.

Oh yeah, did I mention that Browder is suspected of funding the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, a partner of ICIJ? And that the much-praised OCCRP has written extensively about Browder, in the most fawning terms imaginable, without disclosing that suspected funding?

Give me a fucking Pulitzer.

 

 

 

Hack List 2017: The Atlantic’s Vile History of Racism And Neocon Propaganda

If you’ve been a regular reader of The Atlantic during the past few years, you may have picked up on something: the 160-year- old magazine has determined that just about everyone in the country has lost their mind. Jon Lovett, the Democratic aide turned failed Hollywood screenwriter turned podcaster was the first Atlantic contributor to employ the conceit by publishing “How the GOP slowly lost its mind,” in 2013.

Lovett’s article, which pined for a moderate right-wing to stand as a “bulwark against liberal delusion and hubris,” was followed by a 2016 cover story on “How American politics went insane” and a 2017 piece on how the “Left” had also lost its collective marbles. In what can only be seen as a logical conclusion to the magazine’s previous output, this September The Atlantic finally took the step of declaring that America as a whole had gone bonkers, commissioning former Spy magazine editor Kurt Andersen to explain to its readers why foaming-at-the- mouth hinterlands voters supported candidates other than Hillary Clinton.

It’s not surprising to see an elite, taste making publication like The Atlantic declare itself the referee of national sanity –these days just about every media organization is trying to seize the role of hard-nosed arbiter of uncomfortable truths. But this ploy is especially ironic in the case of The Atlantic, given the magazine’s history of stoking exactly the same sort of delusions that it now declares unthinkable.

So for the moment, let’s set aside the war propagandistsred baiters, and architects of American imperialism currently sitting on The Atlantic’s masthead. Instead, let’s travel back in time to the heady days of September 1971, when The Atlantic Monthly published an essay simply titled “IQ,” which was authored by Harvard professor Richard Herrnstein and preceded by a lengthy note from the editors on the importance of studying the potential connection between race and intelligence. 

Richard Hernnstein. One of many racist writers championed by The Atlantic.

With conservative superstar Charles Murray, Hernnstein later co-authored 1994’s “The Bell Curve,” which spends roughly 900 pages explaining how, according to science, black people and poor people are just naturally dumber than rich whites, Jews and Asians. 

Racist shithead and fraud Charles Murray

While fellow phrenologist Andrew Sullivan rightly continues to take shit for publishing an excerpt of “The Bell Curve” in The New Republic some 20 years ago, The Atlantic has somehow escaped criticism for its role in helping Herrnstein find a mainstream audience for his views on inherited intelligence.

Andrew Sullivan: Sordid crimes include his support for the Iraq War, publishing racist garbage about IQ, and his insane attacks on Trig Palin.

Nor was 1971 the last time The Atlantic published a Herrnstein IQ screed. Eleven years later, the magazine ran a piece in which Herrnstein critiqued the media for its treatment of IQ testing and genetics. Unfortunately, the contents of this essay are difficult to find online, but there are a few clues as to what exactly Herrnstein was arguing.

In the magazine’s “letters” section a few months later, The Atlantic published a note on the essay from a little known University of Georgia psychology professor named R. Travis Osborne, who echoed Herrnstein’s previous views that people are unwilling to accept that certain racial minorities have inherently lower IQ scores. Osborne was the recipient of numerous grants from the white nationalist and pro-eugenics group The Pioneer Fund (whose board of directors he would later join) and, years earlier, had testified as an expert witness in opposition to school integration.

In addition to sending his praises to the editors of The Atlantic, archived papers show that Osborne forwarded copies of the article to his colleagues across the country and his friends at The Pioneer Fund, which likewise adored Hernnstein’s work.

Around this same time The Atlantic began a fruitful relationship with Herrnstein’s colleague and co-author, James Q. Wilson, a Manhattan Institute scholar whose research laid the foundation for modern policing. Much like Herrnstein and Murray, Wilson is a firm believer in blaming just about anything other than racism and poverty for unacceptable behavior ranging from crime to performing poorly on standardized tests.

His March 1982 Atlantic article “Broken Windows” (co-authored with George L. Kelling), became part of the intellectual basis for stop-and-frisk and numerous other debunked policing practices later made popular by the esteemed officers of the NYPD. Like many other Atlantic stories of its time, Wilson’s piece was also the basis for some extremely creepy cover art.

 

 

A decade later The New Republic was just beginning to embrace the bogus “science” of people like Murray and Herrnstein. Meanwhile, The Atlantic was promoting new racialist bullshit in the form of the anti-immigration novel “The Camp of the Saints,” a favorite of such esteemed thinkers as Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon and Front National leader Marine Le Pen.

In their lengthy 1994 essay “Must it be the Rest against the West?” Matthew Connelly and Paul Kennedy provide a disturbingly warm review of the French novel, which any thinking person would see as a strong contender for “most racist book ever published.” Rather than accept the book for what it is — the insane ravings of a demented, xenophobic Frenchman envisioning a race war between Europeans and South Asians — Connelly and Kennedy use the novel to try to spark a “serious” conversation about immigration that one would expect to hear on the Charlie Rose Show (or whatever boring PBS interview show that will soon be replacing it). It is an utterly baffling piece to say the least, but one that fits comfortably into the magazine’s history.

Only a few years later, in 1999, the magazine was purchased by consulting titan David Bradley, whose admitted hawkish and neocon views would guide The Atlantic through the run-up to the Iraq war. Under the direction of Bradley’s handpicked editor, former New Republic chief Michael Kelly, the magazine featured several leading cheerleaders for Middle East intervention. (Countered pretty much only by a prophetic article by James Fallows on the risks of war.)

Before dying in Iraq himself, Kelly wrote column after column promoting the war, singing the praises of George W. Bush and viciously attacking anyone who opposed intervention as being “as wrong as it is possible to be” and “in profound opposition to morality.” 

If you needed a more nuanced, intellectually veiled version of Kelly’s arguments, however, The Atlantic was happy to supply that in the form of Yale professor and Orientalist-in-chief Bernard Lewis, whose long essays on Islam the magazine had been publishing for years. Lewis was arguably the country’s most well regarded intellectual to support going to war in Iraq, and his writings for The Atlantic helped to frame “Muslim civilization” and its failure to “modernize” as the main cause of terrorism and anti-Western sentiment in the Middle East.

Writing in 1990 about “The Roots of Muslim Rage,” Lewis briefly acknowledged decades of US support for oppressive regimes in the Middle East, but then just as quickly hand-waved these potential causes for anti-Western sentiment away by saying it simply “does not suffice.” Naturally, Lewis was the man to whom The Atlantic turned after 9/11 to tell its readers Why They Hate Us, and he did not fail to deliver.

In typical fashion for The Atlantic, he blamed disenfranchised Arabs almost entirely for their own lot in life, accusing them of developing a culture of “grievance and victimhood.” If that doesn’t set off any red flags for you, maybe just take a look at The Atlantic’s September 1990 cover, which features a cartoonish drawing of an angry, turbaned man with American flags in his eyes.

Despite all this, The Atlantic has largely gotten off scot free on promoting the type of intellectually veiled racism, xenophobia, and warmongering for which one one of its own writers, Ta-Nehisi Coates, rightfully assailed The New Republic in 2014.

The current Atlantic masthead is anchored by people like editor-in-chief Jeff Goldberg — who spent 2002 writing stories linking Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda — and David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter who coined the Orwellian term “Axis of Evil” and now writes cover stories on how fascism could take root in America.

David Frum: Coined term Axis of Evil; Pentagon shill posing as a journalist.

Other notable, insufferable writers include Peter Beinart, the former New Republic editor who, like most of his colleagues, enthusiastically supported the war in Iraq. Unlike most shills, though, at least later owned up to his mistakes.

Beinart is now mostly known for his writing on Jewish politics in America and his frequent criticism of Israel from a liberal Zionist point of view; less remembered is Beinart’s 2004 New Republic essay, “A Fighting Faith,” where he compares left-wing anti-war activists to Communists of the 1940s and 1950s and advocates for a new Red Scare purge of unsavory leftist elements to “save liberalism.”

Keeping with his “punch left first” philosophy, Beinart recently authored a pair of vacuous stories in The Atlantic about the Antifa movement and “the rise of the violent left,” spending the majority of one of the pieces advising Donald Trump on how to properly handle the threat of left-wing violence.

Beinart: Another rich, privileged asshole who failed upward.

The frustrating thing about The Atlantic these days is not simply that it is often terrible — most mainstream publications are — but that it so shamelessly ignores its own role, and the role of many of its current writers, in legitimizing some of the worst ideas and intellectual movements of the last several decades. Rather than hold accountable pundits like Goldberg and Frum and Beinart who crusaded for the disastrous Iraq war, the magazine rewarded them and allowed them to rehabilitate their names. 

The Atlantic continues to hold considerable power in American discourse, perhaps more now than ever thanks to its successful transformation from a small, high brow magazine into a digital media behemoth. But rather than take the lead in creating a new kind of journalism and intellectual culture that afflicts the powerful and holds accountable those who lie, mislead, and spread fear, The Atlantic is giving those people jobs and bylines in its highly sought after pages.

While its editors may be rightly convinced that the world has gone insane all around them, they need look no further than their archives, and their disgraceful masthead, to figure out why.

[Editor’s note: We’re not rolling out Hack List 2017 in any special order. We’ll rank the Top Ten after posting applications from all the finalists and then I’ll milk all this for another easy post where I announce the winners of the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals for Grand Hackery. Today’s installment is guest written by Trip Brennan. You can read the last installment of Hack List 2017, “The dossier on BuzzFeed, Aka Clickhole, and @BuzzFeedBen,” by clicking here. You can read the installments on the other applicants — Mother Jones, Washington Post, New Yorker, New York Times, The Intercept and Vox — by clicking on the link to the BuzzFeed story. You’ll find the links to those other stories in the first paragraph.]

 

Hack List 2017: The Atlantic's Vile History of Racism And Neocon Propaganda

If you’ve been a regular reader of The Atlantic during the past few years, you may have picked up on something: the 160-year- old magazine has determined that just about everyone in the country has lost their mind. Jon Lovett, the Democratic aide turned failed Hollywood screenwriter turned podcaster was the first Atlantic contributor to employ the conceit by publishing “How the GOP slowly lost its mind,” in 2013.

Lovett’s article, which pined for a moderate right-wing to stand as a “bulwark against liberal delusion and hubris,” was followed by a 2016 cover story on “How American politics went insane” and a 2017 piece on how the “Left” had also lost its collective marbles. In what can only be seen as a logical conclusion to the magazine’s previous output, this September The Atlantic finally took the step of declaring that America as a whole had gone bonkers, commissioning former Spy magazine editor Kurt Andersen to explain to its readers why foaming-at-the- mouth hinterlands voters supported candidates other than Hillary Clinton.

It’s not surprising to see an elite, taste making publication like The Atlantic declare itself the referee of national sanity –these days just about every media organization is trying to seize the role of hard-nosed arbiter of uncomfortable truths. But this ploy is especially ironic in the case of The Atlantic, given the magazine’s history of stoking exactly the same sort of delusions that it now declares unthinkable.

So for the moment, let’s set aside the war propagandistsred baiters, and architects of American imperialism currently sitting on The Atlantic’s masthead. Instead, let’s travel back in time to the heady days of September 1971, when The Atlantic Monthly published an essay simply titled “IQ,” which was authored by Harvard professor Richard Herrnstein and preceded by a lengthy note from the editors on the importance of studying the potential connection between race and intelligence. 

Richard Hernnstein. One of many racist writers championed by The Atlantic.

With conservative superstar Charles Murray, Hernnstein later co-authored 1994’s “The Bell Curve,” which spends roughly 900 pages explaining how, according to science, black people and poor people are just naturally dumber than rich whites, Jews and Asians. 

Racist shithead and fraud Charles Murray

While fellow phrenologist Andrew Sullivan rightly continues to take shit for publishing an excerpt of “The Bell Curve” in The New Republic some 20 years ago, The Atlantic has somehow escaped criticism for its role in helping Herrnstein find a mainstream audience for his views on inherited intelligence.

Andrew Sullivan: Sordid crimes include his support for the Iraq War, publishing racist garbage about IQ, and his insane attacks on Trig Palin.

Nor was 1971 the last time The Atlantic published a Herrnstein IQ screed. Eleven years later, the magazine ran a piece in which Herrnstein critiqued the media for its treatment of IQ testing and genetics. Unfortunately, the contents of this essay are difficult to find online, but there are a few clues as to what exactly Herrnstein was arguing.

In the magazine’s “letters” section a few months later, The Atlantic published a note on the essay from a little known University of Georgia psychology professor named R. Travis Osborne, who echoed Herrnstein’s previous views that people are unwilling to accept that certain racial minorities have inherently lower IQ scores. Osborne was the recipient of numerous grants from the white nationalist and pro-eugenics group The Pioneer Fund (whose board of directors he would later join) and, years earlier, had testified as an expert witness in opposition to school integration.

In addition to sending his praises to the editors of The Atlantic, archived papers show that Osborne forwarded copies of the article to his colleagues across the country and his friends at The Pioneer Fund, which likewise adored Hernnstein’s work.

Around this same time The Atlantic began a fruitful relationship with Herrnstein’s colleague and co-author, James Q. Wilson, a Manhattan Institute scholar whose research laid the foundation for modern policing. Much like Herrnstein and Murray, Wilson is a firm believer in blaming just about anything other than racism and poverty for unacceptable behavior ranging from crime to performing poorly on standardized tests.

His March 1982 Atlantic article “Broken Windows” (co-authored with George L. Kelling), became part of the intellectual basis for stop-and-frisk and numerous other debunked policing practices later made popular by the esteemed officers of the NYPD. Like many other Atlantic stories of its time, Wilson’s piece was also the basis for some extremely creepy cover art.

 

 

A decade later The New Republic was just beginning to embrace the bogus “science” of people like Murray and Herrnstein. Meanwhile, The Atlantic was promoting new racialist bullshit in the form of the anti-immigration novel “The Camp of the Saints,” a favorite of such esteemed thinkers as Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon and Front National leader Marine Le Pen.

In their lengthy 1994 essay “Must it be the Rest against the West?” Matthew Connelly and Paul Kennedy provide a disturbingly warm review of the French novel, which any thinking person would see as a strong contender for “most racist book ever published.” Rather than accept the book for what it is — the insane ravings of a demented, xenophobic Frenchman envisioning a race war between Europeans and South Asians — Connelly and Kennedy use the novel to try to spark a “serious” conversation about immigration that one would expect to hear on the Charlie Rose Show (or whatever boring PBS interview show that will soon be replacing it). It is an utterly baffling piece to say the least, but one that fits comfortably into the magazine’s history.

Only a few years later, in 1999, the magazine was purchased by consulting titan David Bradley, whose admitted hawkish and neocon views would guide The Atlantic through the run-up to the Iraq war. Under the direction of Bradley’s handpicked editor, former New Republic chief Michael Kelly, the magazine featured several leading cheerleaders for Middle East intervention. (Countered pretty much only by a prophetic article by James Fallows on the risks of war.)

Before dying in Iraq himself, Kelly wrote column after column promoting the war, singing the praises of George W. Bush and viciously attacking anyone who opposed intervention as being “as wrong as it is possible to be” and “in profound opposition to morality.” 

If you needed a more nuanced, intellectually veiled version of Kelly’s arguments, however, The Atlantic was happy to supply that in the form of Yale professor and Orientalist-in-chief Bernard Lewis, whose long essays on Islam the magazine had been publishing for years. Lewis was arguably the country’s most well regarded intellectual to support going to war in Iraq, and his writings for The Atlantic helped to frame “Muslim civilization” and its failure to “modernize” as the main cause of terrorism and anti-Western sentiment in the Middle East.

Writing in 1990 about “The Roots of Muslim Rage,” Lewis briefly acknowledged decades of US support for oppressive regimes in the Middle East, but then just as quickly hand-waved these potential causes for anti-Western sentiment away by saying it simply “does not suffice.” Naturally, Lewis was the man to whom The Atlantic turned after 9/11 to tell its readers Why They Hate Us, and he did not fail to deliver.

In typical fashion for The Atlantic, he blamed disenfranchised Arabs almost entirely for their own lot in life, accusing them of developing a culture of “grievance and victimhood.” If that doesn’t set off any red flags for you, maybe just take a look at The Atlantic’s September 1990 cover, which features a cartoonish drawing of an angry, turbaned man with American flags in his eyes.

Despite all this, The Atlantic has largely gotten off scot free on promoting the type of intellectually veiled racism, xenophobia, and warmongering for which one one of its own writers, Ta-Nehisi Coates, rightfully assailed The New Republic in 2014.

The current Atlantic masthead is anchored by people like editor-in-chief Jeff Goldberg — who spent 2002 writing stories linking Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda — and David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter who coined the Orwellian term “Axis of Evil” and now writes cover stories on how fascism could take root in America.

David Frum: Coined term Axis of Evil; Pentagon shill posing as a journalist.

Other notable, insufferable writers include Peter Beinart, the former New Republic editor who, like most of his colleagues, enthusiastically supported the war in Iraq. Unlike most shills, though, at least later owned up to his mistakes.

Beinart is now mostly known for his writing on Jewish politics in America and his frequent criticism of Israel from a liberal Zionist point of view; less remembered is Beinart’s 2004 New Republic essay, “A Fighting Faith,” where he compares left-wing anti-war activists to Communists of the 1940s and 1950s and advocates for a new Red Scare purge of unsavory leftist elements to “save liberalism.”

Keeping with his “punch left first” philosophy, Beinart recently authored a pair of vacuous stories in The Atlantic about the Antifa movement and “the rise of the violent left,” spending the majority of one of the pieces advising Donald Trump on how to properly handle the threat of left-wing violence.

Beinart: Another rich, privileged asshole who failed upward.

The frustrating thing about The Atlantic these days is not simply that it is often terrible — most mainstream publications are — but that it so shamelessly ignores its own role, and the role of many of its current writers, in legitimizing some of the worst ideas and intellectual movements of the last several decades. Rather than hold accountable pundits like Goldberg and Frum and Beinart who crusaded for the disastrous Iraq war, the magazine rewarded them and allowed them to rehabilitate their names. 

The Atlantic continues to hold considerable power in American discourse, perhaps more now than ever thanks to its successful transformation from a small, high brow magazine into a digital media behemoth. But rather than take the lead in creating a new kind of journalism and intellectual culture that afflicts the powerful and holds accountable those who lie, mislead, and spread fear, The Atlantic is giving those people jobs and bylines in its highly sought after pages.

While its editors may be rightly convinced that the world has gone insane all around them, they need look no further than their archives, and their disgraceful masthead, to figure out why.

[Editor’s note: We’re not rolling out Hack List 2017 in any special order. We’ll rank the Top Ten after posting applications from all the finalists and then I’ll milk all this for another easy post where I announce the winners of the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals for Grand Hackery. Today’s installment is guest written by Trip Brennan. You can read the last installment of Hack List 2017, “The dossier on BuzzFeed, Aka Clickhole, and @BuzzFeedBen,” by clicking here. You can read the installments on the other applicants — Mother Jones, Washington Post, New Yorker, New York Times, The Intercept and Vox — by clicking on the link to the BuzzFeed story. You’ll find the links to those other stories in the first paragraph.]

 

Hack List 2017: The dossier on BuzzFeed, Aka Clickhole, and @BuzzFeedBen

[Note: I’m not rolling out Hack List 2017 in any special order. We’ll rank the Top Ten after posting applications from all the finalists and then I’ll milk all this for another easy post where I rank them. You can read the last installment, “PutinTrump.org, formerly known as Mother Jones, makes its case,” here. You can find links for previous entries, for Washington Post, New Yorker, New York TimesThe Intercept and Vox, in this same spot in the Mother Jones application.]

How shitty do you have to be to have a whole website set up for the sole purpose of mocking you? Very shitty, indeed, and that brings me to the Hack List 2017 application of BuzzFeed and its editor-in-chief, @BuzzFeedBen, aka @BenSmith, a man as bland and boring as his name implies, a sort of Willy Loman or Caspar the Ghost of the editorial world.

The website that mercilessly and effortlessly mocks BuzzFeed is the delightful ClickHole.com — “Because all content deserves to go viral” — which is a far more reliable and accurate news outlet than Smith’s rag, which is best known for publishing harmless but stupid cat pictures and listicles, and the dangerous, stupid Trump Dossier, as well as the “SHITTY MEDIA MEN list, which was equally cynical even if exposing shitty media men is an eminently good cause. (I’ll explain why it’s equally cynical below.)

Let’s get out of the way here the obvious fact that BuzzFeed has a few good reporters and periodically published good work that people will point to in its defense. That doesn’t change the fact that it overwhelmingly publishes total shit and that the waste  of money it spends doing so is alone enough to send @BuzzFeedBen to the metaphorical guillotine. It also explains why his rag is known as The Second Least Trusted Name in News, ahead only of Occupy Democrats and behind Breitbart (which is actually not bad half the time).

(Disclosure: BuzzFeed has never written anything about me as far as I can recall, but it did totally slime Washington Babylon‘s Senior Contributing Writer, Sydney Leathers, who has written about her vile experience with them here and here, for example. Sydney has said, “Porn is preferable to BuzzFeed.” Also, @BuzzFeedBen once wrote an incredibly dishonest piece about me, which I’ll discuss below.)

Let’s talk about the Trump Dossier, which I have written about previously, including here in a piece entitled “BuzzFeed‘s Golden Showers.” I started that story by acknowledging that I’m a friend of Glenn Simpson, whose company reportedly produced the dossier via a subcontractor, Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer. I have a lot of respect for Glenn, who was a great journalist and whose firm is known to produce excellent research. But, I added:

I’m generally in favor of disclosure of documents behind stories and love to read the sort of salacious tales in the dossier, but I think it was wrong for BuzzFeed to publish it and the media company bears responsibility for this debacle, which has made the entire profession look even worse and generated sympathy for, of all people, Donald Trump.

Simpson’s firm is being berated at the moment but there are a lot of companies in Washington who do the same thing — namely produce political and business intelligence for paying clients — and they operate openly and everyone, including journalists, know who they are. In terms of political intelligence, there are firms who work for Democrats and firms that work for Republicans, and some who work for both…

Reporters know they have to do a lot of additional reporting before using their products but the firms can be excellent sources of information and story generators — especially because so few journalism outfits are willing to pay for research anymore — and a lot of journalists, including myself, reach out to these companies for story ideas or research support and then seek to independently verify any information received.

As has been widely reported, the Trump dossier had circulated for many months — at least as far back as August — and even though there was a fever on the part of the media to get anti-Trump stories into print, everyone with the exception of David Corn of Mother Jones declined to write about the “dossier,” and even he only referred to parts of it. The fact that dozens of journalists reviewed these documents and declined to use them, on the grounds that their allegations could not be verified shows that the information contained within them was very shaky.

I read the documents online and it’s clear that they are thinly sourced and there were apparently serious errors in them, for example the bit about Trump’s attorney’s trip to Prague. The Golden Showers story obviously attracted most of the attention — as BuzzFeed well knew when it published — but there’s no way to verify it and it seems very unlikely to be true, as much as people want to believe otherwise. 

A lot has happened since I wrote that story last January and BuzzFeed‘s decision doesn’t look any better in hindsight. In fact, it looks worse.
Jonah Peretti, BuzzFeed co-founder: Nerd. Loser. Possibly a vegan. Photo credit: WikiCommons.
Just a few days ago, on November 3, BuzzFeed subpoenaed the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in seeking to fend off a lawsuit stemming from publication of the dossier, as Foreign Policy reported:
BuzzFeed published the [Steele] dossier in full without verifying its details, and as part of its efforts to defend itself in the lawsuit the company is attempting to uncover details about the dossier compiled by Steele and Fusion GPS and verify aspects of its allegations.
The lawsuit was filed by Aleksej Gubarev, owner of a Russian tech company that was named in the report, and who promptly sued BuzzFeed for defamation on February, 3 2017. The court is in Fort Lauderdale because that’s where Gubarev’s company, Webzilla, is based.
Weirdly, criminal libel is still a thing in Florida, and even specifies one shouldn’t cast aspersions on a woman’s chastity, as was noted in a memo to be by the indispensable Theo Papathanasis, Washington Babylon‘s director of research, who will soon start writing for us and whose work is heavily relied on here.
But to claim malice one “must prove that the defendant was at least negligent with respect to the truth or falsity of the allegedly defamatory statements. Public officials, all-purpose public figures, and limited-purpose public figures must prove that the defendant acted with actual malice, i.e., knowing that the statements were false or recklessly disregarding their falsity.” (Incidentally, “malice” here is legalese indicating wrongful intention and doesn’t connote wickedness or active hatred.)
McClatchy notes that BuzzFeed‘s spokesman Matt Mittenthall was quick to say, “We have redacted Mr. Gubarev’s name from the published dossier, and apologize for including it.”
Perhaps BuzzFeed will soon publish “14 Crazy Fun Mnemonics To Help You Remember To Fact Check.” To clarify, BuzzFeed published the Trump/Steele Dossier on January 10, 2017. Which means that, in a sense, BuzzFeed took about 300 days to start any serious verification process, and post factum at that. 
It seems so strikingly ass-backwards that, Theo told me, he reached for the Fact Checker’s Bible: “Not only is truth always a defense against libel, but the very process of fact-checking, even when it fails to eliminate inaccuracy, can be a safeguard against liability.” One presumes that organizations like CNN, which declined to publish the dossier, tried to corroborate some of its claims, couldn’t, and sensibly chose to avoid just this kind of lawsuit.
Let’s now look at some of BuzzFeed‘s coverage of the dossier, and compare it with reality. And, if you click on some of these links, to ClickHole‘s far superior coverage.
Let’s start with the sex stuff because as regards the dossier, PissGate — the allegation that “Donald Trump hired prostitutes to ‘perform a Golden Showers urination show’ on a bed in the Moscow Ritz Carlton Hotel where Barack and Michelle Obama once slept during an official trip to Russia” — is all anyone cared about anyway.
January, 11, 2017
The day after the release of 35 pages of the dossier that contained the PissGate charge, then president-elect Trump rightly said, “A thing like that should have never been written, it never should been had and it should certainly never have been released.”
BuzzFeed ran a bit titled “Putin Says Dossier Is An Obama Administration Attempt To Undermine Trump: “[Putin] . . . pointed out that Trump worked for years on Miss Universe, so why would he be interested in Russia’s prostitutes, although Putin added that they are the best in the world, according to the Kremlin pool journalist.”
BuzzFeed’s choice to run with these outrageous claims of prostitutes pissing on a bed Obama had slept in was probably motivated by the anguish of losing a president they loved so much that it also ran this inspiring retrospective of his years in the Oval Office.
January 31, 2017
BuzzFeed posts an article bemoaning the fact that, as the headline over this moronic story put it, “Trump’s Immigration Order Is Seriously Complicating The CIA’s Job.” According to the article, “Several former case officers said the new order could hinder agents’ ability to work on the ground and deter potential sources from cooperating with the US.”
Weirdly or not, this was also the day BuzzFeed opted to run an article titled,” How Many Of These Ways Have You Kissed Your Boss’s Ass?” Ironic, no, given BuzzFeed‘s faithful role as a service provider for Boss CIA?
 May 17, 2017 
BuzzFeed duly posts “Republican Kevin McCarthy Says Remark That Trump Is Paid By Russia Was A Joke.” The article, citing the Washington Post, quoted McCarthy saying, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: [Rep. Dana] Rohrabacher and Trump.”
Of course, the mark of fluency in any language is that one picks up on humor and can crack a joke, but BuzzFeed apparently missed it — even though it posted a second article that very day saying as much, “Learn Our Language Or GET THE HELL OUT!”
October 22, 2017
In spite of its execrable political publishing, I still appreciate BuzzFeed‘s peculiar charms, particularly its lists, like “18 Old-Fashioned Kitchen Products You Won’t Regret Buying.” Everyone here at Washington Babylon loves to cook and we too enjoy old-timey devices like a good mortar-and-pestle, hand-cranked eggbeaters and stovetop coffee percolators. As BuzzFeed says, “If 2017 has taught us anything, it’s that newer doesn’t always equal better.”
Yet BuzzFeed managed to screw the pooch even here, publishing on the very same day an article headlined, “’80s Throwback! Johnson & Johnson Is Releasing A Limited Edition Bottle of Poison Tylenol!
What about the “SHITTY MEDIA MEN” story and list? Obviously exposing shitty media men is hugely important and I’m all for it. The problem I have is that the list was not sourced and so the people named — some who I feel quite confident do not belong on it — were basically tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion in a kangaroo court with no appeal.
And just like the Trump Dossier, BuzzFeed tossed the information out without verifying it and then cynically claimed that it was performing a public service in doing so. Hey BuzzFeed and @BuzzFeedBen — talk about a man who loves to blow his employer — how about actually reporting out allegations before making them public, with no regard for the consequences? That would be a public service you shitheads.

Why, you may wonder, don’t I like @BuzzFeedBen? Well, he’s a hack and a stooge and a toady for former President Obama and the DNC. But there’s a personal side to this as well.

Some years ago I wrote a story in Salon about journalists who took junkets to the country of Georgia and had their dinner and bar tabs picked up by a lobbyist for that country, neocon Iraq War advocate Michael Goldfarb. I mentioned Eli Lake and @BuzzFeedBen, then known as @PoliticoBen, in the story, with Lake being Exhibit A. It was a pretty obvious story and as I noted in the piece, if a Russian lobbyist was paying for journalists’ bar and dinner bills these very same journalists would write outraged stories about it.

Beavis and ButtBoyBen.

Lake didn’t even make Hack List 2017 because, as I have written before, no one actually believes he’s a journalist, except for the leftist parents he’s apparently rebelling against to this day by being a neocon and Israeli propagandist. And let me note here that I subsequently wrote in Harper’s in 2013 about Lake and fellow neocon propagandist Josh Rogin credulously, or probably worse, writing a story for the Daily Beast  in which they reported that a “crucial intercept that prompted the U.S. government to close embassies in 22 countries was a conference call between al Qaeda’s senior leaders and representatives of several of the group’s affiliates throughout the region.”

The story said that among the “more than 20 operatives” on the call was Ayman al-Zawahiri, who the piece claimed was managing a global organization with affiliates in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Other Al Qaeda participants involved in the call reportedly represented affiliates operating in Iraq, the Islamic Maghreb, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Sinai Peninsula, and Uzbekistan.

The sources for the story were three U.S. officials “familiar with the intelligence.” “This was like a meeting of the Legion of Doom,” one told Lake and Rogin. “All you need to do is look at that list of places we shut down to get a sense of who was on the phone call.”

Then a number of respected national-security journalists began to question the motives of the leakers, and to cast doubt on the story generally. Ken Dilanian of the Los Angeles Times suggested that the piece was intended to glorify the NSA’s signals-intelligence capabilities. Barton Gellman of the Washington Post said there was something “very wrong” with the whole thing. New York magazine got in on the act by parodying the notion of an Al Qaeda conference call.

Despite this tide of doubt and ridicule, the Daily Beast didn’t correct the story, though Lake and Rogin made statements that seemed designed to alter its meaning. “We used ‘conference call’ because it was generic enough,” Lake tweeted. “But it was not a telephone based communications.” In another tweet he informed Ben Wedeman of CNN, “This may be a generational issue, but you can conduct conference calls without a telephone.” (Actually, you can’t, at least according to the dictionary. Moreover, the “Legion of Doom” source had specifically called it a “phone call.”)

I shredded a number of other Lake stories in the Harper’s piece that were clearly enema-fed to him by intelligence sources, as well as the claim in the conference call fantasy that Al Qaeda was poised for a comeback. Al Qaeda, you might ask, who’s he? “The Daily Beast’s sources must be pleased with their handiwork, and with the reporters who bought it,” I concluded.

But getting back to @BuzzFeedBen, when I ran the story in Salon he rushed to Lake’s defense. I’m not even going to bother sharing it with you but I will say that he reduced my estimated 2,000 word rebuttal statement to him to about 30 words, so I’m going to go above and beyond that here in giving him zero words. I’ll add here that I didn’t think it was possible in journalism to sink lower than Eli Lake but being his butt boy manages to.

In closing let me note that Washington Babylon‘s national Political Correspondent Michael Sainato, who was just on our wonderful new podcast, recently wrote in these pages about how BuzzFeed published an article on “rumors” that progressives were pushing to remove three black women from their DNC positions. “The sources of the rumor were two anonymous ‘Democratic Sources’ who claimed two Sanders Supporters were the ones making the push, despite refuting the anonymous claim, likely a narrative pushed by the DNC in response to dissent over DNC Chair Tom Perez’s appointments,” Sainato wrote.

It’s all typical of the way that BuzzFeed and editor-in-chief @BuzzFeedBen — “Beats working for a living,” he writes on his Twitter profile, in what he apparently thinks is a hilariously funny crack — pretends to be independent and iconoclastic while in reality being the ultimate insiders. So, too, is their transparently bogus pose of not buying a table at the pathetic White House Correspondents Dinner and hosting an “alternative event” on the night it takes place.

I generally don’t root for plaintiffs in lawsuits against journalism outlets but lt’s just say I’m wishing Aleksej Gubarev the best of luck.

 

 

Hack List 2017: PutinTrump.org, formerly known as Mother Jones, makes its case

[Note: I’m not rolling out Hack List 2017 in any special order. We’ll rank the Top Ten after posting applications from all the finalists and then I’ll milk all this for another easy post where I rank them. I’m not sure how long this process will take but it will surely be done by the end of the year. You can read the last installment, “Jeff Bezos, Modern Day Pinkerton Head Cracker, and the Washington Post,” here. Previous entries include “Why the New Yorker Sucks, In One Annotated Story,” here, and New York TimesThe Intercept and Vox, links for which can all be found in the last installment.]

Why does Mother Jones, a once very solid if predictable lefty magazine which published many fine writers (including me), totally and completely suck? There’s one reason for that and it’s very simple: Clara Jeffery, David Corn, Kevin Drum and Bill “BuzzKill” Buzenberg, a former executive at Minnesota Public Radio who makes Garrison Keillor look edgy.

Well, there’s another reason, which I’ll get to below as well, namely cynical political opportunism and a willingness to stoop as low as necessary, and beyond, to suck money out of the wallets of rich donors, especially those hoping to force Donald Trump from office and impose on our doddering Republic a Hillary, Bill and Chelsea Clinton junta, a cause for which Mother Jones is perhaps the nation’s leading advocate.

As self-installed editor-in-chief — after engineering a coup against her former co-editor, the far more principled Monika Bauerlein — Jeffery is the primary person responsible for Mother Jones‘s current sad state of affairs. And she’s also the person responsible for hiring fellow co-No. 1 reason for why the magazine sucks, its Washington bureau chief and hack extraordinaire David Corn (admittedly he was low on her list and she only turned to him after various candidates turned the job down, including me.)

Jeffery used to be a very good editor at Harper’s, where she worked with a variety of fine writers, including me, the magazine’s former Washington Editor. She even edited rather terrifically one of my favorite stories, “Licensed to Kill,” which tells the story of arms dealer Ernst Werner Glatt, who covertly worked with the CIA for decades, a tale which sits sadly behind the Harper’s paywall, like virtually everything else the magazine has published since 1865. But enough about Harper’s.

How did Jeffery go from being a senior editor at a prestigious place like Harper’s, which still publishes me, at least as of a year ago, to presiding over a shit show like Mother Jones in its current incarnation (not withstanding the fact that some great people still work at the magazine, which periodically, in the rare moments it’s not attempting to impose the Clinton Triumvirate, publishes amazing work)?

One can only guess but my personal stab, from what I know to be true, is Jeffery’s desperate quest to be approved by the mainstream even as she poses as an outsider, and the fact that she’s essentially an unconventional conformist whose politics are pretty centrist, which would be fine if she were running Minnesota Public Radio or some other outlet whose highest aspiration was to be bland, dull and nondescript.

Jeffery’s self-evidently phony outsider pose is seen in her regular attendance, along with the groveling Corn, at the White House Correspondents Dinner, the annual suckfest at which Washington journalists and politicians do what they do best: pretending they have an adversarial relationship while kissing each other’s asses. Jeffery pretends — like so many other people who love to have their picture taken at this awful affair while feigning indifference — that she is above it all by calling the event the “Nerd Prom,” an all too reverential description of this sad, sad spectacle.

I’d quickly note two other things that people have pointed out to me over the years in seeking to explain Mother Jones‘s descent into the pit of journalism hell: a self-conscious strategy to get people to promote its stories by linking to their work, no matter how atrocious; and, as alluded to above, a willingness to do anything necessary to get tech and other shit head billionaires to fork over cash.

And that leads directly to Mother Jones‘s reverse merger with PutinTrump.org, whose Editorial Director (and fundraising guru) is BuzzKill “Buzzy” Buzenberg, who you can follow on Twitter — please don’t — @NoPutinTrump. PutinTrump.org — whose logo is actually a hammer and sickle, as if Russia were still a Communist state or, more likely given the idiocy of these clowns, Trump were preparing to create the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics of America — “was an election-season blog funded by the Progress for USA Political Action Committee, which was launched by Internet entrepreneur Rob Glaser, founder of RealNetworks and an early employee at Microsoft,” in other words, a big time tech donor behind the ongoing Clintonian coup attempt.

(Full disclosure: I truly don’t like Buzzy but I’ll admit I like him even less because he once criticized an undercover story I did about Washington lobbyists shilling for dictators, calling it unethical. This from a man who is currently seeking to promote regime change at home on behalf of the 1 percent and war with Russia, which would get a lot of people killed even if it doesn’t lead to nuclear holocaust. Buzzy launched his tip-less dart, where he essentially said that a journalist going undercover is worse than a lobbyist flacking for evil, when he was at the once respectable — and perhaps again, now that he’s gone — Center for Public Integrity.)

In May 2017, Buzzy and PutinTrump.org took over Mother Jones, which has been publishing ever since a stream of propaganda about Russiagate that is too lame and stupid to even mention or link to. But I will say that Mother Jones pimping for the crudest version of Russiagate is seriously bad, because the magazine is still perceived as being on the left.

So, on a smaller scale because Mother Jones has very little influence outside of the corridors of power at MSNBC, this is something akin to the New York Times promoting the Iraq War and thereby allowing the George W. Bush administration to claim that “even the liberal” Times backed that stupid conflict. And I’ll also say that Mother Jones‘s coverage of Russiagate is every bit as sleazy, dishonest and dangerous as the Times‘s coverage during the run up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. (See more below.)

Before summing up I would be remiss not to note Jeffery’s horrifying Twitter feed, where she kisses the ass of the 1 percent she’s hoping to get money from (just yesterday she fantasized that if “I were a billionaire,” she’d fund local news coverage); berates homeless people she encounters while walking the wild streets of San Francisco; and, among other unbelievably dumb things, promoted a “tweet storm” by moron Eric Garland and likened it to a new Federalist Paper and the “single greatest thread I have ever read on Twitter.

(See this excellent story from Paste which goes over some of the same ground I’m covering here. Also see this hilarious story in Deadspin about Garland’s “tweet storm.”)

Before turning to Corn and banging on “political blogger” Drum, let me note that I recently sought comment from Jeffery and Corn about what’s happening at the magazine and about alleged misconduct by David Corn (more below). I wrote, lightly edited, in part:
I don’t like David’s work and I think Mother Jones is a disgrace; your merger with Putin Trump is only the latest sign of your intellectual bankruptcy. It’s sad to see what you’ve done to the magazine. I don’t really give a rat’s ass about David…And by the way, my source has no animus towards David. I don’t really even have any animus towards David anymore, he’s a joke. And I apologize for any errors, I’m dictating. Let me know if you need any clarification.
I never heard back from either of them.
Turning to the milquetoast Democratic lapdog Corn, let me disclose that much, but by no means all, of what follows has been extracted from an article I wrote not long ago for the New York Observer, “David Corn: 47 Percent ÷ Liberal Bullshit = Boring Journalism; Amid hefty speaking fees and endless TV appearances, Mother Jones’ star investigative reporter has gone native.” That story began:

When it comes to the national liberal media, few names shine brighter than David Corn, Mother Jones’ Washington bureau chief. He’s a regular on cable news networks, where he can reliably be counted on to serve as a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party, and he regularly attends events like the White House Correspondents Dinner… 

In an Observer story about the 2009 Dinner, the first of the Obama era, the “omnipresent” Mr. Corn was seen dashing about here and there and “in a conversation every time you looked up.” Mr. Corn is also an active member of the Gridiron Club, another group of ass-kissing journalism insiders that holds an annual white-tie dinner.

In addition, Mr. Corn is the author of a number of predictably dull books, for example The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception and Showdown: The Inside Story of How Obama Fought Back Against Boehner, Cantor, and the Tea Party, which he described as “a behind-the-scenes narrative covering the White House from the disastrous 2010 midterm elections until the promising start of 2012. It is a reporting-driven tale of how President Barack Obama got his groove back in time for the reelection campaign.” (Note to Ambien addicts: Buy this book, you’ll sleep like a baby.)

(Disclosure: I wrote for Mother Jones for a long time but no longer do and guess I probably won’t in the future.)

Corn, let me add, directly plagiarizing further from my Observer story, is best known for breaking the secret videotape in which Mitt Romney told a group of GOP donors that 47 percent of the American people were freeloaders and would always vote for Democrats so it would be hard for the GOP ever to win an election. (In fact, the GOP can’t win elections primarily because they are mostly retrograde lunatics who hate women, gays and minorities. The Democrats are more or less the same but not as retrograde on social issues.)

But to say Corn “broke” the story is a bit of a stretch. He published it only because a source dropped the videotape in his lap and actually the Huffington Post — which also annoys me because it is so beholden to the Democratic Party — broke the story, to the best of my recollection, and Corn and his editors at Mother Jones hogged the credit.

Corn loves to be on cable news and the 47 percent story helped him enormously. His desperate desire to get on TV was the subject of mockery at Mother Jones’ Washington office. “It’s almost time for me to go see Chris [Matthews] on Hardball,” he’d say in a phony self-deprecating way, while the staff laughed behind his back. Several people alleged that he kept a coatrack outside his office where he’d loudly muse over his sartorial options for that evening’s television duty.

Anyway, the 47 percent story was typical of Corn because he’s not a reporter, he’s a bloviator who does easy stories and he mostly works on articles that back his own political agenda and especially if they don’t piss off anyone in the Washington media who might advance his career. In short, Corn will not shit in his own living room, which leads to safe and boring journalism.

(To read about Corn’s speaking fees, about the disgusting nature of Washington night life, and to see my brilliant daughter’s photography, some of which accompanied the Observer story, make sure to click here.)

One last thing about Corn. When I wrote to him and Jeffery recently it was to inquire about rumors and very specific allegations of sexual misconduct. “It would really look bad if you’re Hillary Clinton for David the way Hillary protects Bill,” I wrote in a line directed rather clearly at Jeffery.

As noted above, I never heard back, which is sort of odd under the circumstances, but yesterday Politico published a story on the same rough topic. Here’s an excerpt:

Mother Jones magazine’s editor and chief executive acknowledged on Thursday that they investigated Washington bureau chief David Corn for inappropriate workplace behavior three years ago, warning him about touching female staffers and insensitive descriptions of sexual violence, and would now probe the allegations further in light of two emails written by former staffers in 2014 and 2015 and obtained by POLITICO.

One of the emails, written in 2015 by a former staffer outlining concerns she had heard from other women in the Washington office, said Corn, now 58, made “rape jokes,” “regularly gave [several women] unwelcome shoulder rubs and engaged in uninvited touching of their legs, arms, backs, and waists,” and “made inappropriate comments about women’s sexuality and anatomy.” The other email, from 2014, was by a former female staffer who claimed that Corn “came up behind me and put his hands and arms around my body in a way that felt sexual and domineering.”

Corn, in a statement to POLITICO, said that neither his comments nor his touching of colleagues was in any way sexual.

“I am an exuberant person and have been known to pat male and female colleagues on the shoulder or slap them on the back, but always in a collegial or celebratory way,” he said. “I have never touched any work colleague in a sexual manner. Once concerns were raised about this type of contact, I have been mindful to avoid it to prevent any misperception. If anyone ever perceived any of this as ‘sexual’ or ‘domineering,’ I am sorry—that was never my intent.”

“Sexual violence is not funny, and I have never joked about it, or about women’s sexuality and anatomy,” Corn wrote.

“Oh,” wrote a story at boingboing.net, “That clears it right up.”

As to political blogger Kevin Drum, I recently asked Washington Babylon‘s chief research assistant, the excellent Theo Papathanasis, to do a round up about him. “You’ll have to forgive me if this is a bit muddled, but reading about RussiaGate all day has been positively brain-desiccating and I had no choice but to supplement what’s left of my cerebral fluids with Old Grand-Dad,” he wrote when reporting back. “You know, for health.”
Actually, Theo’s memo wasn’t muddled at all. He unearthed an interview from 2005, which provides a good deal of insight into Drum’s intellectual caliber:
Q: Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you’ve ever changed your mind?
 
A: The Iraq war. I supported it initially, but before the war started I switched to opposition on practical grounds (i.e., that George Bush’s approach was incapable of accomplishing the goals it was meant to accomplish). Since then, I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that, in fact, I should have opposed it all along on philosophical grounds: namely that it was a fundamentally flawed concept and had no chance of working even if it had been competently executed.
Note here that those aren’t philosophical grounds, but tactical ones. A philosophical reason might have been to invoke Just War Theory or Clausewitz or something. There’s none of that here. He effectively says he changed his mind, opposed the war for practical reasons, but should have opposed it for…practical reasons. There’s no real difference between saying a goal can’t be accomplished and that the same thing has no chance of working. This is pure babble.
Then there was this:
 
 Q: What personal fault do you most dislike?
 
A: Loudmouthism. I just made up that word, but I imagine it’s clear enough not to really need a definition.
To begin with English has a few ways to better construct that word. The gerund “loudmouthing” would have been slightly pithier and “loudmouthery” would have, at least, provided comedic effect.
But that’s not the juice here, Theo noted in his memo. The personal fault he dislikes the most is the same thing he uses — in the same interview — to describe the essence of political blogging, the only thing for which he’s known:
So if you do it (i.e. blog), do it because you enjoy mouthing off for its own sake.
The man appears to be totally clueless and oblivious. It calls to mind the Delphic inscription, “Know thyself.” It also calls to mind Trump’s contribution to the world’s great aphorisms: “I do it to do it.”
Moving on.
Q: What talent would you most like to have?

A: That’s easy: the ability to write great fiction. Or even good fiction. I’ve gotten so much pleasure from reading fiction during my life that I very much wish I could pay the world back by writing some of my own. Sadly, I lack the imagination to do so.

Yes, Drummy, you do, not to mention the lack of talent, creativity, intelligence or wit.

I don’t really have the time or patience to do more about Drum, but here is a link that’s representative of what he’s been up to more recently, “Are Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin Really BFFs?“, and an inadvertently funny story by his colleague Denise Clifton, “Putin’s Pro-Trump Trolls Just Targeted Hillary Clinton and Robert Mueller.”
Jesus, that’s just pathetic and entirely reflective of what a joke Mother Jones has become. Vandalic Russians trolling American democracy into complete dissolution,  Barbarians at the Gates and all the rest of the nonsense that Americans are currently being bombarded with.
So that’s about it, but I’m sure you all agree by now that Mother Jones‘s application for Hack List 2017 should be strongly considered by our elite panel of judges.

Hack List 2017: Jeff Bezos, Modern Day Pinkerton Head Cracker, and the Washington Post

[Note: I’m not rolling out Hack List 2017 in any special order. We’ll rank the Top Ten after posting stories about all the finalists and then I’ll milk all this for another easy post where I rank them. I’m not sure how long this process will take but it will surely be done by the end of the year. You can read the last installment, “Why the New Yorker Sucks, In One Annotated Story,” here. Other candidates thus far are New York Times, The Intercept and Vox.]

Like many of his fellow tech billionaires, Jeff Bezos looks Blandly Evil, not Snidely Whiplash Evil. But make no mistake about it, Bezos — the Amazon.com CEO who recently purchased Whole Foods and who runs the Washington Post and his other properties like slave camps — is both.

“When the financial markets opened on July 27, 2017, Bezos briefly surpassed Bill Gates to become the world’s richest person, with an estimated net worth of just over $90 billion. He lost the title later in the day when Amazon’s stock dropped, returning him to second place with a net worth just below $90 billion,” according to Wikipedia. I’m not sure which of those assholes is richer now, but Bezos netted another $8.6 billion yesterday.

Admit it, you’d like to punch him in the face before ordering him up the stairs to the guillotine. And who could blame you?

Bezos gets remarkably, or perhaps not, good press in the U.S. media — especially the Post — which invariably describes him as a “philanthropist.” Sure he is, just like noted breadcrumb distributor Marie Antoinette.

Bezos doesn’t exactly treat his employees as serfs nor does he typically bring in goons to crush heads and murder them, like the oligarchs of the Industrial Revolution era, with their Pinkerton National Detective Agency, called in by the Carnegie family to break the Homestead Strike, and other private police/military forces.

No, Bezos just kills them with kindness, or as this excellent report says:

As Amazon expands and takes over more of the economy, it’s driving many
alarming trends affecting working people: fewer reliable jobs, more temporary work
arrangements, declining wages, and high-stress conditions.

When shoppers interact with Amazon, they see an innovator. Yet behind the scenes,
across the corporation’s vast network of fulfillment facilities, Amazon relies on a
regressive labor model designed to maximize its power and profits no matter the
cost to our communities.

And suffice it to say that Amazon.com employees abroad get fucked even worse. In short, Bezos is the very personification of modern monopoly capitalist. Don’t ask me why, because the person who noted this wants to remain off the record for some mysterious reason, but I’m somehow reminded of Upton Sinclair writing in The Brass Check, “The people I have lashed in this book are to me not individuals, but social forces.” And Sinclair also wrote that his general thesis was, “American newspapers as a whole represent private and not public interests.”

Keep in mind that Bezos’ companies started out by lowering prices, thereby suckering in consumers, and then raised them as they gained control over their markets on the way to becoming monopolies. Whole Foods consumers take note. Bezos lowered prices, very selectively, after he took over the chain. Just wait and see what your chia seeds cost next year. Never forget, shoppers, that Amazon.com’s success has been predicated on razing a rainforest of small business across the globe.

How, you might ask, does this impact Washington Post coverage, other than ensuring that Amazon.com, Whole Foods and other of the boss’s properties get blown on a regular basis (metaphorically speaking)? Well, I’m the first to admit that the Post still periodically commits important works of journalism. But these are few and far between.
More often the Bezos Times is retracting one of its idiotic Russiagate stories (while pretending in the headline it hadn’t reported the story the day before) or winning a Pulitzer Prize for its dull, boring, earnest series about the Trump Foundation by dull, boring, earnest David Farenthold (not to be confused with annoying, whiny, nasal David Folkenflik of NPR).
The Trump Foundation series was OK, but it deserved a Pulitzer the way Dogshit Dances With Wolves deserved an Oscar. And the worst part was that everyone knew it was mediocre but it was preordained to win the Pulitzer — more on those stupid awards below — because it was blandly anti-Trumpist and journalists and their corporate masters wanted Hillary Clinton to win because she was seen as a safer guardian of their riches, rightfully, compared with the reckless, unpredictable nut job who now occupies the White House.
(Oh yeah, I should probably mention here that I have a Trump story coming out next week that would win the Pulitzer next year if I had written it for the New York Times or Washington Post or any number of other lame mainstream newspapers.)
As to the Farenthold “epic,” David called something like all 400 donors to the Trump Foundation and more or less discovered what many other reporters, including me, had discovered long before him:
I smell Pulitzer. Photo and all other credit and blame: Ken Silverstein.
.
Namely, that the Trump Foundation is a penny ante racketeering operation, highly unattractive and sleazy but paling in comparison to the ghastly corruption and influence peddling practiced by the Clinton Foundation before Hillary lost the election and there was no more access to peddle. (See here, among other stories I wrote.)
By the way, the Pulitzers are a total scam and entirely political. To take one example, in the late 1970s, the Chicago Sun-Times bought its own tavern and exposed, in a 25-part series, gross corruption on the part of city inspectors (such as the fire inspector who agreed to ignore exposed electrical wiring for a mere $10 payoff). During that same decade, the Chicago Tribune won several Pulitzer Prizes with undercover reporting and “60 Minutes” gained fame for its use of sting stories.
Those were the days. Anyway, then Post editor Ben Bradlee was on the Pulitzer committee and made sure that the Sun-Times amazing series didn’t win, because he questioned its…..ethics. Jesus Christ. Let bar-goers die in a fire but for god’s sake, don’t let reporters go undercover. Or, to take another example, let lobbyists whore for dictators but don’t let a journalist go undercover to expose them. Jesus Christ.
By the way, if you care to read a story about Sally Quinn, who perhaps was the worst columnist in history — perhaps; stiff competition from the appalling Post op-ed page, among others — click here. Sally was married to Ben.
(When we conclude with the 10th and final entry of Hack List 2017 — still applying are Mother Jones, BuzzFeed/Buttboy Ben Smith, The Atlantic/Jeffrey Goldberg, MSNBC/Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow, and one more — we’ll mock the Pulitzers with our new “Hack List 2017 Prizes.”)
Getting back on point, concerns about Bezos’ potential conflicts of interest with the Post swirled around the CIA’s $600 million contract with Amazon Web Services (AWS). It’s a little bit puzzling because the Post is the CIA’s unofficial house organ anyway, along with the New York Times and a few others. (The State Department got stuck with the New York Review of Books.)
The point here is that I don’t remember the last time the Post actively opposed the type of policies the CIA and the Pentagon push. Guys like William Blum have been writing about this stuff for years now. Nobody gives a shit, though I think that’s finally changing.
I’m a complete tech dunce, but it sounds like the CIA is paying to use AWS hardware. One immediately wonders how anyone in their right mind would consider ceding national security to a third party like this to be good strategy. It’s mercenary in both senses of the word.
The Post‘s conflict of interest problem is rather embarrassingly expressed in the newspaper’s own statement on conflicts of interest. “Connections with government are among the most objectionable.” Oh well, fuck that thingy.
But, you might want to argue, Bezos may not be perfect but he bought a newspaper because he believes in free speech and freedom of the press. Right? Wrong. Robert McChesney has this to say:
They still have great political value, monopoly newspapers, especially the Washington Post, in the nation’s capital. It might not be a commercially viable undertaking, but it still has tremendous political power. And I think when we understand it that way, that’s the appeal of these remaining legacy monopoly newspapers, like the Chicago Tribune, he Washington Post, he Boston Globe, to wealthy people, is that it won’t make them money in the short term on that exact investment, but it gives them great political power to advance their political agenda, which, in the case of someone like Jeff Bezos, could give him a great deal of money down the road…What we have is a plaything for these billionaires that they can then use aggressively to promote their own politics.”
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): I don’t know if you’ve ever seen — years ago, they came out with The War Room, how the Clintons fought back in 1992 against George Herbert Walker Bush, very insightful. It gives you some insight, by the way, into your friend George Stephanopoulos. I don’t know if you’ve seen that, but we know about the Clinton machine, we know they play dirty. We know they’ll say and do anything to get elected. Between that and The Washington Post announcing that they have put 20 people to dig into every single phase of your life, are you prepared for what’s coming? It’s not if it’s coming, but when it’s coming.
 
DONALD TRUMP: Yeah. It’s interesting that you say that, because every hour we’re getting calls from reporters from The Washington Post, asking ridiculous questions, and I will tell you this is owned as a toy by Jeff Bezos, who controls Amazon. Amazon is getting away with murder, tax-wise. He’s using The Washington Post for power, so the politicians in Washington don’t tax Amazon like they should be taxed. He’s getting absolutely away — he’s worried about me, and I think he said that to somebody, it was in some article, where he thinks I would go after him for anti-trust, because he’s got a huge anti-trust problem because he’s controlling so much.
 
Amazon is controlling so much of what they’re doing, and what they’ve done is he bought this paper for practically nothing, and he’s using that as a tool for political power, against me and against other people. And I’ll tell you what, we can’t let him get away with it. So he’s got about 20, 25, I just heard they’re taking these really bad stories — I mean they’re, you know, wrong. I don’t even say bad, they’re wrong. And in many cases, they have no proper information and they’re putting them together, they’re slopping them together, and they’re going to do a book.
 
And the book is going to be all false stuff, because the stories are so wrong and the reporters, I mean, one after another — so what they’re doing is he’s using that as a political instrument to try and stop anti-trust, which he thinks I believe he’s anti-trust, in other words what he’s got is a monopoly. And he wants to make sure I don’t get in.
 
HANNITY: Yeah.
 
TRUMP: So, it’s one of those things. But I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what, what he’s doing’s wrong and the people are being — the whole system is rigged. You see a case like that, the whole system is rigged, whether it’s Hillary or whether it’s Bezos.
 
[CROSSTALK]
 
HANNITY: That’s a good point.
 
TRUMP: No, no he’s using — let me, he’s using The Washington Post, which is peanuts, he’s using that for political purposes to save Amazon in terms of taxes, and in terms of anti-trust.
 
HANNITY: Wow.
(Note: Substitute the names Robert McChesney and Amy Goodman there and you have a liberal rapture. No offense intended.)
Trump’s intriguing take is that the main thing is Amazon’s tax-dodging, but he’s perhaps even more on point when it comes to the anti-trust threat. Not that I’d take any of what he says seriously. The Donald would shave his head and go chromedome like Bezos before he’d resuscitate serious anti-trust law.
Which leads to Lina Khan’s very excellent work, for example this. And even better, this article she wrote, which says: “It is as if Bezos charted the company’s growth by first drawing a map of antitrust laws, and then devising routes to smoothly bypass them. With its missionary zeal for consumers, Amazon has marched toward monopoly by singing the tune of contemporary antitrust.” (Recall here that Khan and the entire team she was part of were shitcanned by the New America Foundation because of their work on anti-trust, which pissed off Google, the think tank’s biggest donor.)
OK, I seriously have to run but here are a few other things that make the Post a Hack List 2017 finalist:
—Check out these two articles, one which reads: “Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at New America and author of The Business of America is Lobbying, said that “It’s pretty rare for a megalobbyist to have a gig as a columnist in such a prominent venue.” He added that while it’s hard to quantify how much the Post column helps his lobbying business since Rogers “has plenty of influence with or without his columns … it almost certainly helps him. I can’t imagine his gig as a Post columnist isn’t part of his pitch to potential clients.”’
—Here’s an eye-dropping but kind of routine-by-now story about Mad Dog Mattis touring Amazon’s HQ.
From the more-or-less left-wing Frankfurter Rundschau, via Google Translate, we learn: “Underwear, cosmetics, kitchen utensils, accessories for almost everything: Amazon is not just in the mail-order business, but produces goods too. Already, the list of unknown brands is a long one. Insiders say the US trade group wants to bring to market sportswear and fill in a market blank. Amazon didn’t comment…In the US, Amazon is an much bigger player in several areas. The retailer hides behind 800 different private brands, all registered at the local trademark and patent office, according to a recent US magazine article. Including several laundry and model boards such as Arabella, James & Erin or North Eleven for different target groups.”

—Finally, how fucked-up is this?

Really Lazy Friday: A stroll down memory lane in Turkmeniscam, ExxonMobil editon

I’m really pressed trying to finish up Hack List 2017: Jeff Bezos, Modern Day Pinkerton Head Cracker, and the Washington Post, but I would be remiss not to mention, and exploit, this press statement released today by TrumpExxon executive vice president T. Rex Tillerson, marking Turkmenistan National Day.

 

There’s really no need to click on that link, you won’t find Thanksgiving recipes. It’s just T. Rex more or less kissing the ass of one of the planet’s worst dictatorships, which happens to be — though this is not mentioned in the statement — a country with vast energy reserves coveted by ExxonMobil.
“We send the people of Turkmenistan our best wishes as you celebrate this special day, and we hope our partnership grows stronger over the next year,” writes T. Rex. “Gee, thanks,” the people of Turkmenistan have replied by now, “Why don’t you fuck off until you stop supporting our shitty regime.”
Anyway, I have to be fast here, as noted above, so let me just link to a story I wrote for Harper’s a few years ago when I fucked a bunch of top Washington lobbyists by going undercover and getting them to tell me how they would polish the Turkmen regime’s image, for fees of up to $5 million, natch.
You can also read this Los Angeles Times op-ed, in which I defended undercover reporting from mainstream critics after my story came out and humiliated a bunch of lobbyists who are sources for my mainstream critics. “I’m willing to debate the merits of my piece, but the carping from the Washington press corps is hard to stomach,” I wrote. “This is the group that attended the White House correspondents dinner and clapped for a rapping Karl Rove. As a class, they honor politeness over honesty and believe that being “balanced” means giving the same weight to a lie as you give to the truth. I’ll take Nellie Bly any day.”
And you can also click here, at this wonderful site put together by the utterly delightful Brooke Kroeger of New York University, to see where my story fits within the history of undercover reporting and to get information about how to order my book, “Turkmeniscam: How Washington Lobbyists Fought to Flack for a Stalinist Dictatorship,” which grew out of the article. And which you can order directly here.
In this Kirkus review — which was pretty lukewarm, unlike many others, which I don’t have time to find — my book was described as, “Readable and well-reported, though openly partisan.”
Haha. Partisan. Me? Never.
OK, I have to get back to work, see you soon.

Hack List 2017: Why the New Yorker Sucks, in One Annotated Story

[Note: I’m not rolling out Hack List 2017 in any special order. We’ll rank the Top Ten after posting stories about all the finalists, and then I’ll milk all this for another easy post where I rank them. I’m not sure how long this process will take but it will surely be done by the end of the year. You can read the prior installments, on Dean Baquet and the New York Times here, “The Drones of The Intercept” here and on Vox here.]

I wasn’t initially going to include the New Yorker on Hack List 2017, not because it doesn’t belong here but because technically it doesn’t totally suck. The magazine periodically publishes great work — inevitably, given its piles of cash and the fact that so many journalists desperately want to write for it, no matter how degrading that experience ultimately proves to be — by people like Dexter Filkins, Jane Mayer and Adrien Chen.

But the New Yorker does mostly suck — and especially given its piles of cash and the fact that so many journalists desperately want to write for it. Let’s put aside that the magazine’s “humor” — typified by the chronically cringe-inducing Andy Borowitz, the Andy Rooney of print media — is so painfully unfunny. Let’s even let bygones by bygones and forget its epic “Sonny Rollins Hates Jazz” screwup, a failed piece of “satire” which nobody got and which the dumb fucks responded to — arrogance personified — by adding, at the bottom, not the top, ensuring that almost no one saw it, that everyone should’ve known it was satire to begin with. (See this story for the racist component of the whole sad affair.)

But just scroll through its weekly table of contents and you’ll find surprisingly few articles worth reading. Meanwhile, it prints reams of mediocre garbage. The worst part is that the New Yorker frequently publishes stories that merely rehash what other outlets have already done, but padded with 10,000 additional words, and then its work gets praised as groundbreaking and literary by the media elite. It’s like a shitty Italian restaurant that gets a positive review or mention by the New Yorker and so hordes of insecure people with no idea what good Italian food is go there and rave about the overcooked, lifeless pasta because if the New Yorker likes it, it must be great.

Politically, the magazine is dull and predictable. It’s reflexively anti-Trump — fine, but join the crowd of dimwitted liberal bubble-dwellers who didn’t see him coming — and espouses a middle-of-the-road Democratic Party vision that’s about as fresh and lively as an Al-Gore-Nancy Pelosi debate, and which has limited appeal beyond the 70+ crowd on New York’s Upper West Side.

The primary person responsible for this is New Yorker editor David Remnick, a veritable weathervane of conventional wisdom and another old white guy that thinks it’s hip to write a biography of Bruce Springsteen. Remnick’s worldview is just as uninteresting as you’d expect given that he “has been a Visiting Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and has taught at Princeton, where he received his B.A., in 1981, and at Columbia,” and that he completely marginalized Sy Hersh, one of the greatest journalists in U.S. history.

But what I want to focus on today is the vital role that the New Yorker plays in enforcing ideological conformity and setting the boundary for acceptable liberal opinion, i.e. by making Hersh more or less verboten in polite liberal society. This was also seen in the New Yorker‘s horrifying role in promoting the 2003 Iraq War by foisting upon the world the entirely dishonest work of Jeffrey Goldberg.

I’ll have more to say about the latter when I write the Hack List 2017 finalist application for The Atlantic, which Goldberg, having failed upward, now edits. For now, just recall that Dick Cheney and the George W. Bush White House hailed Goldberg’s pre-invasion work and said that if even the liberal New Yorker wanted to take out Saddam Hussein, no one could possibly oppose the war. 

Remnick and the magazine are currently among the most zealous promotors of the “Russiagate” affair, which proposes that Vladimir Putin “meddled” in the 2016 presidential election in order to elect his man, Donald Trump. For the record, I do believe that Russia successfully curried favor with Trump — as it did with Hillary — and I’ll be writing about that very soon.

But I can’t take much of the Russiagate narrative seriously, for example, that Trump was effectively a tool of Putin’s and a traitor to the United States. Give me a break. No matter what else you think of him, Trump is far too Alpha Male to be run by Putin or anyone else, and whatever you think of his policies he’s clearly not consciously seeking to promote Russian interests over American interests.

In any case, I’m now going to annotate one especially terrible New Yorker story on Russiagate which features not one but three bylines, including that of Remnick (a careful, cautious Washington Post correspondent reporting from Moscow many years ago). I’ll present a snippet from the story and then provide commentary following the snippet.

Let’s begin, shall we?

Snippet:

TRUMP, PUTIN, AND THE NEW COLD WAR

What lay behind Russia’s interference in the 2016 election—and what lies ahead?

Comment: Oh For God’s Sake, this has all the sophistication of a double feature of “Reefer Madness” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

Snippet: On April 12, 1982, Yuri Andropov, the chairman of the K.G.B., ordered foreign-intelligence operatives to carry out “active measures”—aktivniye meropriyatiya—against the reëlection campaign of President Ronald Reagan…The Soviet leadership considered Reagan an implacable militarist. According to extensive notes made by Vasili Mitrokhin, a high-ranking K.G.B. officer and archivist who later defected to Great Britain, Soviet intelligence tried to…discredit the President as a corrupt servant of the military-industrial complex. The effort had no evident effect. Reagan won forty-nine of fifty states.

Comment: Ooooh, aktivniye meropriyatiya, we speak Russian so you have to take us seriously! Reagan was “a corrupt servant of the military-industrial complex” — everybody knew that, it didn’t take the Russians to spread the word. And oh yeah, cool that you acknowledge that the KGB’s master plan had no impact. But never mind, it’s time for a new Cold War!

Snippet: The U.S. officials who administer the system that Putin sees as such an existential danger to his own reject his rhetoric as “whataboutism,” a strategy of false moral equivalences. Benjamin Rhodes, a deputy national-security adviser under President Obama, is among those who reject Putin’s logic, but he said, “Putin is not entirely wrong,” adding that, in the past, “we engaged in regime change around the world. There is just enough rope for him to hang us.”

Comment: The authors will cite foreign policy Hacketeer Rhodes regularly throughout this abysmal piece of state propaganda. “Just enough rope”? No, WAY WAY WAY more rope than needed. By any reasonable standard, U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War was just as evil and cynical as the Soviet Union’s, and produced far more suffering across a wider stretch of the planet. But opposing “moral equivalence” was to the Cold War what embracing “American exceptionalism” is today, namely an empty and offensive bromide that all must pay fealty to or be expelled from the community of acceptable opinion-formers. I remember back in the 1980s when liberal New York Times columnist Tom Wicker said he just couldn’t “take seriously” anyone who believed in moral equivalence. That’s just the way that ideological shaming and conformity enforcement work. Anyway, as journalists and intellectuals, why make bogus comparisons to another country unless you want to let your own country off the moral hook and justify not examining the Homeland? This is exactly how we ended up with a media and intellectual class that almost unanimously supported the Iraq War.

Snippet: After the collapse of the Soviet Union, in the early nineties, the C.I.A. asked Russia to abandon active measures to spread disinformation that could harm the U.S. Russia promised to do so. But when Sergey Tretyakov, the station chief for Russian intelligence in New York, defected, in 2000, he revealed that Moscow’s active measures had never subsided. “Nothing has changed,” he wrote, in 2008. “Russia is doing everything it can today to embarrass the U.S.”

Comment: Yep, nothing has changed, that’s what the Russiagate promotors want everyine to believe. KGB = FSB and the Soviet Union = Russia Today. Except that Russia today is a dysfunctional capitalist country and Communism pretty much died there two decades ago. And the U.S. wouldn’t be so easy to “embarrass” if it didn’t do so many “embarrassing” things.

Snippet: [Putin] considers nongovernmental agencies and civil-society groups like the National Endowment for Democracy, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the election-monitoring group Golos to be barely disguised instruments of regime change.

Comment: Putin is right.

Snippet: The 2016 Presidential campaign in the United States was of keen interest to Putin. He loathed Obama, who had applied economic sanctions against Putin’s cronies after the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of eastern Ukraine. (Russian state television derided Obama as “weak,” “uncivilized,” and a “eunuch.”)

Comment: Anyone who thought Russia would sit back and allow the U.S. to impose regime change in Ukraine is stupid enough to believe that the U.S. would sit back and watch Russia impose regime change in Canada. Except the U.S. really did seek to impose regime change in Ukraine, using a group of corrupt thugs that aren’t much different than the corrupt thugs they were trying to take out other than for being “pro-West.” Are journalists able to read history, or at lest Wikipedia? Ukraine was pretty much part of Russia for hundreds of years. Also, “On January 31, 1667, the Truce of Andrusovo was concluded, in which the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth ceded Smolensk, Severia and Chernigov, and, on paper only for a period of two years, the city of Kiev to the Tsardom of Russia. The Eternal Peace of 1686 acknowledged the status quo and put Kiev under the control of Russia for the centuries to come. Kiev slowly lost its autonomy, which was finally abolished in 1775 by the Empress Catherine the Great.”

Snippet: American trust in the mainstream media had fallen to a historic low. The fractured media environment seemed to spawn conspiracy theories about everything from Barack Obama’s place of birth (supposedly Kenya) to the origins of climate change (a Chinese hoax).

Comment: Americans have good reason, i.e. the New Yorker, to not trust the media. And as espoused by the magazine, and many others, Russiagate is another conspiracy theory that’s about as believable as the claims of Birtherism.

Snippet: Yevgenia Albats, the author of “The State Within a State,” a book about the K.G.B., said that Putin probably didn’t believe he could alter the results of the election, but, because of his antipathy toward Obama and Clinton, he did what he could to boost Trump’s cause and undermine America’s confidence in its political system. Putin was not interested in keeping the operation covert, Albats said. “He wanted to make it as public as possible. He wanted his presence to be known,” and to “show that, no matter what, we can enter your house and do what we want.”

Comment: Well, that settles it. PUTIN FUCKED US, BUT GOOD!

Snippet: By Inauguration Day, January 20th, the evidence of a wide-scale Russian operation had prompted the formation of a joint task force, including the C.I.A., the F.B.I., the N.S.A., and the financial-crimes unit of the Treasury Department. Three Senate committees, including the Intelligence Committee, have launched inquiries; some Democrats worry that the Trump Administration will try to stifle these investigations. Although senators on the Intelligence Committee cannot reveal classified information, they have ways of signaling concern.

Comment: Zzzzzzzzzzz. Also, that settles it: PUTIN FUCKED US, BUT GOOD! AND TRUMP IS COVERING IT ALL UP! IMPEACH NOW! #THERESISTANCE!

Snippet: After viewing the classified materials, Mark Warner, of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said of the Russia investigation, “This may very well be the most important thing I do in my public life.”

Comment: Mark Warner has never done anything important in his public life, so this is a very low bar.

Snippet: Trump denounced the dossier as a fake. Putin’s spokesman called it “pulp fiction.” But, before the dossier became public, Senator John McCain passed it along to the F.B.I.; later, some of his colleagues said that it should be part of an investigation of Trump.

Comment: John McCain is a brain dead neocon. Who cares what he does or thinks?

Snippet: For many national-security officials, the e-mail hacks were part of a larger, and deeply troubling, picture: Putin’s desire to damage American confidence and to undermine the Western alliances—diplomatic, financial, and military—that have shaped the postwar world.

Comment: Not much comment, that is just too stupid. The Trump-Clinton election did more to damage American confidence than anything Putin could have cooked up.

Snippet: Not long before leaving the White House, Benjamin Rhodes said that the Obama Administration was convinced that Putin had gone into an “offensive mode beyond what he sees as his sphere of influence,” setting out to encourage the “breakup” of the European Union, destabilize NATO, and unnerve the object of his keenest resentment—the United States…Samantha Power offered a similar warning, shortly before leaving her post as United Nations Ambassador. Russia, she said, was “taking steps that are weakening the rules-based order that we have benefitted from for seven decades.”

Vlad the Destroyer. Image from New Yorker’s story.

Comment: Here we go with Rhodes again. And a dose of Samatha Power. This is scraping the bottom of the barrel. And “rules-based” — it benefited us, admittedly, but it must be good. Please.

Snippet: Putin’s resentment of the West, and his corresponding ambition to establish an anti-Western conservatism, is rooted in his experience of decline and fall—not of Communist ideology, which was never a central concern of his generation, but, rather, of Russian power and pride…In speeches and interviews, Putin rarely mentions any sense of liberation after the fall of Communism and the Soviet Union; he recalls the nineteen-nineties as a period of unremitting chaos, in which Western partners tried to force their advantages, demanding that Russia swallow everything from the eastward expansion of nato to the invasion of its Slavic allies in the former Yugoslavia. This is a common narrative, but it ignores some stubborn facts.

Comment: It’s about 99 percent stubbornly true.

Snippet: When the 1996 election season began, Yeltsin was polling in the single digits. Much of the country held him responsible for economic measures that seemed to help only those close to Kremlin power. For millions, reform—including the “shock therapy” pushed by Western advisers and politicians—meant a collapse in basic services, hyperinflation, corruption, kleptocratic privatization, and an economic downturn as severe as the Great Depression. Most Russians blamed not the corrosion of the old system but, rather, the corruptions of the new. Demokratiya (democracy) was popularly referred to as dermokratiya (shit-ocracy). Yeltsin, benefitting from the support of both the oligarchs and the International Monetary Fund, managed to eke out a victory against his Communist opponent, but he continued to drink heavily, despite a history of heart attacks, and, in his final years in power, was often a sorry, inebriated spectacle.

Comment: Oohhhhh, more Russian words to make us look smart, nyet? Finally a little truth anyway, but please make sure to mention that the U.S. “meddled” in Russia for years on behalf of its toady Yelstin; it helped him steal an election and keep him in power, until his drunken antics required the hated, discredited leader to resign and hand over power to Putin.

Snippet: But, even in the Internet era, more than eighty per cent of Russians get their news from television. Manipulation of TV coverage is a crucial factor in Putin’s extraordinarily high popularity ratings, typically in excess of eighty per cent—ratings that Donald Trump both admires and envies.

Comment: There you go Davey et al, nice meaningless comparison of Trump and Putin. What political leader doesn’t want high ratings? Anyway, thank god America can rely on MSNBC, Fox News and the New Yorker for fair and balanced coverage

Snippet: Late one evening in the spring of 2007, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves of Estonia was at home using his laptop computer. He had trouble getting online. The news sites were down. The banks were down. Government sites were down…[A]fter a few calls, he realized that someone was attacking one of Estonia’s core assets.

Comment: Estonia? Seriously? You totally lost me.

Snippet: Gerasimov is sixty-one years old, and is always photographed in a stiff, forest-green military uniform and with a perpetually sagging frown.

Comment: This is what passes for color at the New Yorker. The words just leap off the page. And the “perpetually sagging frown” is what the experts call “tipping your hand.”

Snippet: Obama’s adviser Benjamin Rhodes said that Russia’s aggressiveness had accelerated since…

Comment: Rhodesy! You’re back! Bye!

Snippet: By March, 2016, the threat was unmistakable. Cybersecurity experts detected a second group of Russian hackers, known as Fancy Bear, who used “spear-phishing” messages to break into accounts belonging to John Podesta and other Democratic officials. Like Cozy Bear, Fancy Bear had left a trail around the globe, with its technical signature visible in cyberattacks against the German parliament, Ukrainian artillery systems, and the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Comment: This is better than an episode of Berenstain Bears!

Snippet: By mid-February, law-enforcement and intelligence agencies had accumulated multiple examples of contacts between Russians and Trump’s associates, according to three current and former U.S. officials.

Comment: It’s now late-October. It’s still not entirely clear if those contacts were inappropriate, a lot of the reporting on this has by now been discredited. But I guess we’ll find out soon.

Snippet: The working theory among intelligence officials involved in the case is that the Russian approach—including hacking, propaganda, and contacts with Trump associates—was an improvisation rather than a long-standing plan.

Comment: Oh. That sort of undermines a lot of what you said earlier in this story and there’s still a lot of entirely unverified assumptions being made here. Whatever, what’s good for the New Yorker must be good for the country.

 

Hack List 2017: A brief history of Vox, the dumbest place on the Internet

[Note: I’m not rolling out Hack List 2017 in any special order. We’ll rank the Top Ten after posting stories about all the finalists, and then I’ll milk all this for another easy post where I rank them. I’m not sure how long this process will take but it will surely be done by the end of the year. You can read the two prior installments, on Dean Baquet and the New York Times here and “The Drones of The Intercepthere.]
You may be surprised to know that Vox, the four-year-old publication founded by Man-Boy Ezra Klein, almost didn’t make Hack List 2017. Sure, I’ve written about it many times, as recently as earlier this week, but today, four years after its founding, Vox is already a joke and just about everyone recognizes that it isn’t a journalism outfit, it’s a PR agency. But I decided to include it anyway.
It would be misleading to refer to Vox‘s decline, because this ghastly rag has sucked since birth (much like its top staffers), but until recently it was taken seriously by more people than you’d expect. I don’t know what its readership is currently, but I hardly hear about Vox anymore and I expect it’s audience is steadily declining. If not, the country is fucked far worse than I had previously imagined.
The turning point, if one can use that term about Vox, was the 2016 presidential election, when it served as an arm of the Hillary Clinton campaign, first when she and the DNC were stealing the Democratic primaries from Bernie Sanders and then when she was managing to lose in the general to pitiful Donald Trump, who most any other candidate would have shredded to minced meat.

Ezra just couldn’t understand that his beloved candidate’s popularity with the general public declines in direct relationship to exposure, because to know her is pretty much to hate her. So even as Hillary was crashing and burning on the campaign trail, Ezra was desperately seeking to promote her candidacy, and hence simultaneously helping doom it, with a relentless barrage of puff pieces, interviews with the candidate and video segments.

“How can you possibly satirize a dweeby hipster wannabe who wears a black T-shirt for a video segment that may as well have been a Hillary campaign ad?” I wrote a year ago. “Or who does a lengthy story on Hillary, featuring a whiffle ball interview with her, in which the stated goal is to answer a question that poor Ezra has been struggling with for the past eight years: ‘Why is the Hillary Clinton described to me by her staff, her colleagues, and even her foes so different from the one I see on the campaign trail?’”

Ezra’s valiant effort to market Hillary to the American public proved harder than selling rat poison to rats — which is not to say the Clinton campaign didn’t appreciate his efforts. He established himself as its most reliable mouthpiece, as seen in a Podesta email released during the campaign, in which a few Clintonistas were wondering which journalist could most reliably be called upon to push out the campaign narrative and keep other reporters in line.

“Lloyd Grove used to be the person who would hold journalist [sic] accountable – who is that now and is there an opportunity for that in real time today?” Cheryl Mills, one of Hillary’s closest aides, asked.

Campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri had the answer: “I think that person, the degree to which they exist, is Ezra Klein,” she wrote. “And we can do it with him today.” And do him they did, repeatedly.

But let’s step back for a second and examine Vox‘s founding and its guiding principles. I don’t really feel like doing the legwork necessary for that task, so let’s turn things over to David V. Johnson (who’s been promising me a piece for ages) in his Baffler story, Explanation for What? Vox.com’s capture of the know-it-all demographic. And to make my job today even easier, I’ll just liberally quote from Johnson’s piece, which I’ve rearranged below to my liking:

Future historians may well mark the date of April 6, 2014, as a watershed moment in the media’s epic bid to redefine itself in the digital age. For this was the day that Vox.com went live, heralding the golden dawn of a new journalistic epoch. Cofounded by Washington Post Wonkblog creator and liberal pundit Ezra Klein, prolific contrarian policy blogger Matt Yglesias, and former Post director of platforms Melissa Bell, Vox has not only challenged assumptions about what journalism is and how it should be done, but has altered ideas of what a digital media business can be.

What is the secret of Vox.com and its thriving parent company Vox Media, which, according to a report this spring in Bloomberg Technology, is profitable and valued at $1 billion? Vox’s central product innovation is what’s called a card stack. The cards in question are a linked series of discrete vantages on a topic that are supposed to offer continuously updated explanations in a simple question-and-answer format. Each one is “like a wiki page written by one person with a little attitude,” Bell told the New York Times….“They’re inspired by the highlighters and index cards that some of us used in school to remember important information,” Klein explained on the site’s launch. “We’re incredibly excited about them.”

Anyone who’s spent sleepless teenage nights cramming for college entry tests with a battery of index cards and highlighters probably isn’t going to share this particular brand of excitement. Yet in the efficiency-crazed, PowerPoint-oriented world of business achievers, this approach may feel more user-friendly than anything that requires sustained attention and critical thinking.

Vox takes pride in an audience that is purportedly five times as likely as readers of other sites to be a 25–34-year-old “business decision maker,” and it serves that decision-making audience what it wants. You can find a revealing glimpse of the site’s thought-leading aspirations in a recent notice touting its first bona fide Vox policy conference. As the introductory materials explain, the September confab was soliciting a cross-section of elite opinion—so long as all parties are comfortably ensconced in the bubble of meritocratic privilege. With a straight face, the Voxers announce that “we’re looking for a broad range of participants—not just people we already know.”

And who, exactly, are the promontories in this broad range? Let the enterprising Vox staff explain: “We want to find the grad student whose research will change everything, the Hill staffer who sees a better way, the entrepreneur who’s figured out what’s wrong with the system, the industry leader with a vision of what could be different.” If these are the ingredients of a broad range of thought and a freewheeling exchange of opinions, then the Aspen Ideas Festival is a Maoist revolutionary cell.

(To this day, David V. Johnson also noted in his fine story, one of Klein’s titles on the Vox site is “head vegetable chef.”)

Let’s also briefly cite a hilarious story by Jacob Bacharach:
Among a certain class of Americans, those of us who go to “good” colleges and take, sometime during our freshman and sophomore years, some sort of introduction to sociology course, there is the universal experience of that one student. He is inevitably, invariably male; he is either in or has recently completed a course in biology, although he is almost certainly not a biology major; he finds, in almost every class, an opportunity to loudly and circularly suppose that some or other human social phenomenon is a direct analogue of some behavior in ant colonies or beehives or schools of fish or herds of gazelles.
 
But now over at Vox.com, Ezra Klein’s intrepid effort to out-USA Today USA Today, Zach Beauchamp has discovered two political scientists who have discovered “circumstantial” evidence that human wars are the genetic remnant of animal territoriality. DNA is mentioned, but there are no double helices in sight; what’s meant is something more akin to the “animal spirits” that Tristram Shandy was so concerned with, or perhaps a kind of pre-genetic, crypto-Mendelian, semi-hemi-demi-Darwinian understanding of trait inheritance. In this case, the authors of a study, and the author of the article, notice that animals are territorial, that humans are territorial, that both come into intraspecies conflict over territory, and therefore, ergo, voilà. It has the remarkable distinction of being both self-evidently correct and skull-crushingly wrong. The deep roots of human territoriality are animal, but explaining organized human warfare in this manner has the motel smell of a husband telling his wife that he’s been fucking other women due to evolutionary mating imperatives. “Babe, calm down! Have you ever heard of bonobos, huh?”
I also love my childhood friend Santiago “Sante” Javier Valenzuela’s simple description of Vox as “The dumbest place on the Internet.” And, returning to my own thoughts and words, let me note that Vox is awash in venture capital and sponsored content, which is a good thing according to Lindsay Nelson, the vice president of the un-ironically named division, Vox Creative. “Publishers have to get better with understanding the product side of native,” she explained in this 2014 interview.

One of the really annoying things about Vox is that just about everyone involved with it is a privileged shit head who had everything in life handed to them on a silver platter. That’s one of the reasons the site has no idea of what’s happening in the real world — of particular note here is that for most Americans, the economy is in a recession and life isn’t peachy as it is for high-end media types — and why it totally missed the Trump and Bernie insurgencies.

Klein was born and raised in Irvine, California, a planned city. Think Reality TV “Truman Show.” He attended one of the top public high schools in California, University High, and then seamlessly moved on to UCLA. It’s a rough life.

Ezra started off as a cautious but mildly left-of-center writer but sold out the minute the Washington Post came calling, and in 2009 founded “Wonkblog,” which covered “policy over politics.” His announcement of the blog revealed the policies that are most important to Klein:

I have felt personally ashamed that after spending so much time covering the passage of health-care reform and Dodd-Frank, I have spent so little time keeping you up-to-date on the efforts to implement the two laws. With Sarah and Suzy here, those stories will no longer go uncovered. I have always felt embarrassed that I know so little about energy and climate change, which are arguably the most consequential issues facing our economy, and even our planet.

To say that Ezra views the world through rose-tinted shades is a gross understatement so the idea that he felt compelled, after nine years at the Post, to found Vox based on the idea of explaining America to its people is not only ridiculous but extremely offensive. We don’t need an elitist twat telling us how and why things work. 

Not that being privileged and/or upper class should exclude you from being a journalist, but, you know, you’re probably going to miss a thing or two. In addition to Trump winning the election, I’d also point out here Vox‘s paltry offerings when it comes to “Explainers” about class and how it impacts social and political discourse. 

When it does wade in, it fucks things up big time, like in this 2014 Labor Day piece. In it Klein pretends to lean left but then gives the game away by writing, “America is the richest country the world has ever known. We can afford to guarantee workers a few days of paid rest a year.” “Let them eat cake,” eh Ezra? (Before moving on, I would be remiss not to note this pathetic item in which Ezra explains why Democrats need Al Gore.)

Moving on, let me note that one of Vox‘s co-founders with Ezra is Melissa Bell, who comes from a long line of lawyers. She attended Georgetown, worked in New York as a legal assistant (but quit after 9/11), spent time tending bar — in Vail, natch — and backpacking across Europe before moving on to Northwestern, per mummy’s request, in the “global journalism” program in India.

The third co-founder of Vox is Neoliberal Warlord Matthew Yglesias. He attended Dalton School in New York, where for only around $42,000 a year you learn to recite bland, liberal bromides on political and social policies. Yglesias later went to Harvard, natch, where he obtained a degree in philosophy.

Matt Yglesias, Vox’s Neoliberal Warlord
Let’s borrow liberally from Baffler again, this time in an article by my friend Chris Lehmann about Yglesias’s now-legendary 2013 Slate story about the collapse of a Bangladeshi apparel factory that killed more than 1,000 people.  Yglesias — “an eager Democratic partisan brandishing pious Washington credentials from The American Prospect and the Center for American Progress,” in the words of Lehmann, “framed his defense of the status quo regime of erratic standards for worker safety in the hoary rhetoric of the public choice ‘trade-off’.”
In the Slate story, Yglesias wrote some of the more offensive lines of journalism ever seen, saying, in defense of his appalling thesis, “While having a safe job is good, money is also good” and “Bangladesh is a lot poorer than the United States, and there are very good reasons for Bangladeshi people to make different choices in this regard than Americans. Safety rules that are appropriate for the United States would be unnecessarily immiserating in much poorer Bangladesh.”
But let’s return to the topic of Ezra, shall we, and let me now cut-and-paste very liberally from a story previously published in these pages. Ezra, I noted then, in 2016, had reached the ripe old age of 32 and was clearly making piles of dough. I’m not sure what he’s raking in at Vox, which is lavishly funded by venture capitalists and corporations like NBCUniversal, but he appears to be cleaning up on the speaker’s circuit — or journalistic buckraking, as the practice used to be known.

Using the alias of Emma Stoffels, Washington Babylon recently reached out to Klein’s speaking bureau, where his bio promises that he will use his “razor-sharp focus and wit” to give audiences “an unvarnished look at the intersection of today’s domestic and economic policy-making coupled with a political system that has major impacts from Wall Street to Main Street and around the world.”

His page says he can talk on about a score of topics, including Business Growth/Strategy/Trends, Corporate Culture, Creativity, Innovation, Jewish Interests, the Middle East and Social Media/New Media. It features glowing testimonials from Fordham University College Democrats and the California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems.

Emma Stoffels, who was supposed to be with a University of Texas at Austin group called the Coalition of Millennials in Politics, said that she wanted Klein to be a guest speaker at an event — titled to be as bland and boring as possible — next spring: The 2017 Millennial Policy Summit: What Happens Now? “There will be panels on a range of topics, ranging from health care to climate change to foreign policy,” she added.

We assumed that a mediocre hack like Klein would go for somewhere between $7,500 and $15,000 a pop but when we selected that budget range we got a note back from one of his handlers: “Thank you for your inquiry and your interest in Ezra Klein. I’m afraid that his speaking fee does fall outside of the budget range you indicated you have available….As an additional thought, I suggest you reach out to your local universities, libraries or media networks to inquire about talent.  They are great resources for finding expert speakers, authors or local anchor personalities for minimal to no costs.”

This was disappointing, so Emma wrote back that the Millennial group might be able  to increase its budget to nab Klein. “The role of journalism in American politics is undeniable,” she wrote. “Klein has managed to find a unique edge…We could plan to allocate $20,000-25,000 for him to join the forum.”

Tragically, even that amount of money wouldn’t necessarily be enough to lure Ezra so Emma was passed along to another handler at the speakers’ bureau. This person said that Ezra’s fee would be $30,750, plus hotel accommodations, meals and incidentals. (Airfare and car service were generously included in the fee). “That said, he really does enjoy college programs and I think he would consider an invitation at $25,000,” this person wrote. “Also, if Ezra’s fee is prohibitive – I’m happy to help with other journalist available at a slightly lower price point.”

Think about these numbers for a second. Median household income in the United States — which peaked in the late-1990s — was $56,500 last year. So with a single university speaking gig, Klein apparently takes in more than half of what a typical family lives on for a full year. (One imagines he charges more for groups wanting his thought on business strategies and trends. I asked Klein for comment via his Twitter page and sent him my email, but didn’t hear back from him.)

Meanwhile, Klein thinks a $15 minimum wage is a terrible idea and so does Vox, in an article that Paste said took “pro-corporate fear-mongering mixed with a severe allergy to analytical rigor…to a new, unprecedented level.” This, ironically, was a rare time that Vox criticized its favorite candidate, for endorsing a $15 minimum wage.”

Klein and Vox’s economic prescriptions in general come straight out the playbook of the most pro-corporate wing of the Democratic Party. Think raising taxes on the rich to reduce inequality is a good idea? Think againAnd again.

In closing, let me further self-plagiarize from my 2016 epic. Back during the Watergate era, I noted, plagiarizing various articles and books of mine going back well more than a decade, the Post’s then-executive editor, Ben Bradlee, said that reporters had become more and more conservative as they got paid better. It’s hard to be conservative on $75 a week, but seventy-five grand, you begin to think of the kids and the bank account and the IRA and roll it over and all this stuff,” he wrote.

Nowadays most reporters don’t make a lot of money — and of course huge numbers have been fired during the past twenty years — but those at the top drive a lot of the journalism conversation. That’s because few espouse economic views that would trouble a typical billionaire or Fortune 500 CEO.

Anyway, let’s close with some good news. Vox won’t make Hack List 2018 because it is quickly flaming into irrelevance. It may not be entirely gone but it will already be forgotten.
Coming next in Hack List 2017. The New Yorker and the Washington  Post.

Flashback Saturday: How the Iraq War Financed a Beltway Real Estate Boom

[Note: I wrote this for The Intercept back in early 2015. I’ve very nicely asked that dreary publication to take down the work that I published with it for a brief, wretched time. They have not complied with my desires, which sort of sucks; on the other hand it makes it very easy for me to take old stories of mine, which are my intellectual property, and re-run them here on weekends. Also, please make sure to check out my latest Hack List 2017 submission, titled, “Hack List 2017: The Drones of The Intercept.”]

******

Back in the DC real estate doldrums of the mid-1990s, before he helped pave the way for war in Iraq, Stephen Rademaker owned a modest condo in Arlington, Va.

Then, a few years later, as a House staffer on the International Relations Committee, Rademaker wrote the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which called for regime change, a phrase that altered the course of history. Bill Clinton signed the Act, which became the basis for the congressional authorization for the use of force against Saddam Hussein four years later; by then Rademaker was working at the State Department.

Things soon took a turn for the better, at least for Rademaker; he left government and went to work as a lobbyist, eventually joining countless numbers of retired government officials who cleaned up, directly or indirectly, by leading the country into war.

I wrote the other day about two of these former senior government officials, who have made a killing in the post-9/11 era: former CIA director George Tenet and former FBI director Louis Freeh. But when it comes to those who profited directly from the last thirteen years of war, Exhibit A perhaps is Rademaker, a man for whom the Iraq war became a giant piggybank.

Rademaker, who was a strong backer of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and has generally never met a war he didn’t want, from Syria to Libya, is now a principal at the Podesta Group–the lobbying and and public affairs firm founded by Tony and John Podesta, two of the worst people in Washington. At the Podesta group, Rademaker has advised the firm’s international clients, including the Iraqi government.

That contract was originally signed in 2013 and was worth close to $1 million; it was renewed last year and paid the Podesta Group about another $1 million. I’m told by a well-informed source that Podesta Group lobbyists get a 20 percent cut of business they bring in, so if Rademaker helped land that deal he could have earned an impressive bonus. (I emailed Rademaker yesterday evening to ask for comment. So far he hasn’t replied; if he does I’ll update this story.)

Rademaker doesn’t take credit for his role in drafting the Iraq Liberation Act, at least not in his bio on the company’s website, but he does cite his “lead responsibility, as a House staffer, for drafting the legislation that created the US Department of Homeland Security,” now widely regarded as the most dysfunctional part of the federal government.

Also worth mentioning is that Rademaker is married to neocon Danielle Pletka, another former Hill staffer who is now senior vice president at the American Enterprise Institute, and who clings by her nails to the cliff’s edge of sanity. She and her think tank were major proponents of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and last August, Pletka co-authored a Wall Street Journalop-ed that called President Obama’s response to ISIS “inadequate.” She demanded that Obama arm the Syrian opposition, send military advisers and trainers to Iraq “by the thousands, not hundreds,” and stop “blocking the delivery of much-needed weapons” to Iraq.

Resuming those shipments—which had been delayed by annoying human rights concerns, like widespread “politically motivated sectarian and ethnic killings” in the words of a U.S. government report—is one of the things that Pletka’s husband gets paid to lobby for, my source said, so it’s nice she can use the Journal’s op-ed pages to help him out.

In the meantime, Rademaker has taken a nice step up from the Arlington, Virginia condo that he sold in 1995 for $148,000. Now he and Pletka live in a 6,138-square-foot 6-bedroom home in McLean, Va.—big enough to fit a few of the over one million Iraqis who have been displaced or fled their country since the 2003 invasion. Rademaker and Pletka bought the house, currently assessed at $1.8 million, a year after the war began.

 

Hack List 2017: The Drones of The Intercept

[Note: I’m not rolling out Hack List 2017 in any special order. We’ll rank the Top Ten after posting stories about all the finalists, and then I’ll milk all this for another easy post where I rank them. I’m not sure how long this process will take but it will surely be done by the end of the year. The last installment, on Dean Baquet and the New York Times, can be read here.]

I’ve worked at a lot of shitty places in journalism — in fact, just about every place I’ve worked at, specifically meaning where I had to go to an office, has been pretty shitty — but I’d have to say that the absolute worst place I’ve ever been associated with is The Intercept, which is published by Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media. And I worked from home in Washington, roughly 250 miles from The Intercept‘s HQ in New York, so that tells you a lot.

I worked briefly for First Look when it was painfully birthing The Intercept and Racket, which was to be led by Matt Taibii and which Omidyar pulled the plug on. In a typically classy move, he canned the entire Racket staff — except me; I moved to The Intercept for a brief, miserable time — right before Thanksgiving.

I have, of course, written about my wretched time at The Intercept and I’ll be recycling (again) some of that article, which ran in Politico, in this story. There’s just something powerful and palpable in the DNA of the place that is evil and dishonest, and trust me, everyone who has ever worked there knows what I’m talking about. When people quit or get fired, they often talk about going through a detoxification period, like former Scientologists, for example, or concentration camp guards.

I understand why people take jobs there; jobs in journalism are hard to find and just about everyone is desperate. The Intercept pays well so you get an offer and ask yourself, “How bad can this possibly be?”

If you have a brain and a soul, it’s bad beyond your worst nightmares and just about everyone — other than those willing to suffer any indignity in exchange for Omidyar’s gold, some of whom will be discussed below — ends up being miserable.

Again, let’s use the concentration camp guard analogy. No matter how logical it seemed in the short-term, it doesn’t look good on your CV or when you get to the Gates of Heaven.

Even worse, possibly, The Intercept is spectacularly boring. Every once in awhile it manages to publish something decent-to-good but given the resources it has at its disposal, it’s astonishing how infrequently it does so. And as I wrote in Politico, the fact that “First Look hired so many talented people to create Racket, spent more than a million dollars on it, and in the end fired everyone before Racket ever published a single story must stand as one of the greatest squandering of money and leadership ineptitude in modern journalism.”

As noted above, the only people who appear to be content at The Intercept are people who’ll do anything for money. (Hey, isn’t there a word for that?) The most prominent members of the Pierre Omidyar Squadron of Concentration Camp Guards are Frau Betsy Reed and Herrs Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill. Let’s discuss them in order, shall we, but first let’s start with the repellent Omidyar — henceforth PO — himself.

I know PO and I can assure you he is not smart. He didn’t get rich because of an outstanding track record in journalism but through lucky timing in the tech business with eBay, but now that he’s loaded his minions and serfs tell him he’s a genius.

PO would sometimes attend Intercept staff meetings in New York or remotely by video. I think I only met him twice in person, but I remember invariably he would say during these staff meetings, “You probably want to know what I think” and then talk about something, usually how much he loves journalism and the First Amendment.

Actually, no one wanted to hear him talk about anything because his insights were utterly banal and of no interest. This was a man too stupid to know that as publisher, his job was to write checks and Shut The Fuck Up, to let people do their jobs and bask in the glory if there ever was any. But he’d clearly had his ass kissed for too long and had become delusional, thinking that people liked him for his brains and charm and not merely for his money, as was quite obviously the case.

The Intercept loves to talk about its “fearless” reporting, but that wasn’t a word that would factor into its corporate life (or journalism). At the 2014 holiday party, my first and, mercifully, last, two fiercely “independent” staffers “interviewed” PO and asked him what he did in the morning. Since you are all hanging on the edge of your seats, he drinks tea and reads stuff, the New York Times and other things, with The Intercept ranking about No. 5 (he claimed). The whole thing was sad.

[Digression, excellent shopping advice: I met an 18-year-old woman the other day when shopping at a vintage store and she said she tries hard, like me, to avoid buying anything at Amazon because it enriches the horrible Jeff Bezos, and similarly looks for smaller alternatives for all her shopping needs in order to try to avoid further enriching the plutocrat class. I never buy anything on eBay and she told me she avoids it too. She told me  that unless you were purchasing merchandise from China, prices on eBay are outrageous. To avoid giving money to shitty oligarchs and plutocrats, she recommended Poshmark.com for clothing; Mercari.com for books, electronics and accessories; and OfferUp.com for furniture and equipment.]

Turning to Betsy Reed. She was a friend for more than a decade who left The Nation in a rush to take a fat paycheck from PO, and is a good example of how formerly good people become tainted, and even evil, by association with The Intercept.

Again, I can understand why Frau Reed took the job, but what’s creepy is that she was secretly negotiating her new position just before and even after having told me how terrible The Intercept was, and how I should quit and move to The Nation, the publication she was getting ready to stab in the back. 

Then there’s Greenwald, No. 1 guard at the Pierre Omidyar Concentration Camp for Journalists and the boss’s top ass-kisser. A former lawyer, Greenwald sees the world in black and white and cannot tolerate any shades of gray, as I recently noted. His opinion is the only correct one and if you disagree you’re a whore or a liar.

Nothing he writes or says can be trusted, even when he’s right, because he doesn’t reach a single conclusion honestly. His conclusions are determined before he begins to report, and he does very little of that; he’s essentially a shrieking, uninformed op-ed columnist. 

And how much hypocrisy can Greenwald stomach? Quite a bit, it turns out. While portraying himself as being radically independent and the People’s Pundit — and not talking much or disclosing how much money he gets paid by tech oligarch PO, but I’m told it’s around seven figures when bonuses are factored in — Greenwald lives in a mansion in Rio de Janeiro.

He doesn’t have the balls to stand up to Omidyar and so he lends his name to the sad, sad Intercept. Omidyar wants regime change in Venezuela and Ukraine. No problem, Intercept staffer and Greenwald puppy Murtaza Hussain has a story coming right up. PO is a Democratic insider and Obama crony. Well, that’s not really newsworthy for The Intercept. PO privatizes Snowden’s NSA secrets and invests in a creepy cybersecurity startup. Nothing to see, folks.

To hear him talk himself, Greenwald is purer than the driven snow — and so is his pal Edward Snowden, who I’ve been writing about. What Greenwald doesn’t care to discuss is how much he has invested in the good vs. evil narrative he tells about himself and about Snowden.

In 2015, I heard Greenwald talking about Saint Edward at the 6th & I Synagogue in Washington, when he was selling his dreary book about Snowden and the NSA. I was with a few people who worked for The Intercept and I figured it would look good to buy the book, and at the time I didn’t realize Greenwald was such an uninformed blowhard. The book was so boring that I returned it a few days later to Politics and Prose, the bookstore on hand that night, and bought a graphic novel.

Anyway, it was that night that I realized just how much of a blowhard Greenwald was, and is. Because he couldn’t talk about the NSA or the issues that should have been central to the book, because he didn’t understand intelligence issues or have any sources. He had gotten documents from Snowden but didn’t know how to mentally process them and so he frequently made amateurish mistakes in his reporting.

So all night, Greenwald talked only about Snowden and what a perfect human being he was. As I mentioned before, Greenwald sees the world in black and white but in the case of Snowden he had another rather obvious incentive to portray him and see him as a giant among men. He was chasing a movie deal in order to become even richer and Hollywood doesn’t like gray.

Finally, let’s turn, briefly, as he doesn’t merit more, to Jeremy “Cap’n Jerkoff” Scahill, a man who became well know for writing an incredibly long, ill-informed and dry book (edited by Betsy Reed) about the military contractor formerly known as Blackwater, though he was too cowardly to call its CEO, Erik Prince.

By the way, I wanted to link the words Cap’n Jerkoff to a hilarious picture that Scahill posted on Instagram of himself at the helm of a boat, but he either removed the link or blocked me. But look at any photo of Scahill and you’ll see the same thing: A sad, insecure, rapidly aging, broadening-at-the-waist mediocrity from Wisconsin who poses as an intrepid journalist, but, I’m told, typically travels with plenty of protection when going off on an overseas excursion that looks so daring when he writes about it or it appears in one of his bland video projects.

(Update: Thanks to my great pal Seth Hettena, I now have the pic I referred to above of Cap’n Jerkoff. He actually posted this unflattering image of himself on Instagram, with the caption: “Amazing day captaining a boat (first time!) around the Kornati islands in Croatia. So beautiful!” Incidentally, Seth and I are not in agreement on everything, but you should definitely check out his amazing new website, TrumP Россия.)

I once had the mis-pleasure of eating dinner with a group of people that included Scahill and Sidney Blumenthal, a vile little man as well. All that’s worth saying here is that Blumenthal is an amoral sleaze but at least he’s smart. Scahill is not and Blumenthal shredded his arguments about private military contractors, which allegedly is Scahill’s chief area of expertise.  

But perhaps my favorite Scahill story took place following the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, which he thought the perfect time to reminisce about how he was once – he claims — robbed at gunpoint in Baltimore by a member of the Black race that he claims to love so much. Scahill wrote a series of tweets about his scary but moving experience, which made him love and understand black people even more. “Yo, black dude,” he wrote. Please rob me and even kill me and I promise not to call the cops coz you had it so ruff as a young black dude:”

(Disclosure: Scahill didn’t actually write that, I did. It’s a composite tweet that encapsulates Scahill’s series of tweets about his moving experience and also encapsulates his empty liberalism. It would be a miracle if he had any actual Black friends and if he does they must be very boring.)

To close, I quit The Intercept because I hated working there and Frau Reed wouldn’t fire me, which I wanted so I could collect unemployment while I got back on my feet. (By the way, I’m back.) My decision to quit was disastrous from a financial perspective but I can honestly say, and the evidence backs me up here, that I’d rather risk starving than working as a concentration camp guard for PO.  

Pissing On Their Graves: A new feature at Washington Babylon and an old story from the intercept

I’m publishing below an entire story from the intercept that I wrote in the relatively recent past. I didn’t ask for permission and I’m not including the link. the intercept fired me and trust me, they will pay. Writers of the World Unite! We have nothing to lose. Literally!

On a related note, Hack List 2017 will have a new addition next week. And no foreshadowing but betsy reed, every last word you told me when you were secretly negotiating your deal with pierre “PO” omidyar will be included. You’re the worst of the worst. glenn greenwald, jere “Cap’n Jerkoff” scahill and others are reprehensible, but you front for them with your sweet smile and bland editing. Fuck You.

And to the intercept, take my work down from your shitty site, or else. Also, I will be writing your site’s obituary, trust me on that too.

OK, here we go.

****

HOW WASHINGTON MOURNED TOMMY BOGGS, FRIEND TO THE WORST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD
Ken Silverstein
January 30 2015

Lobbyists who watched the State of the Union address “dealt with…jabs at their profession,” The Hill reports, and they felt President Obama’s address reinforced “an unfair and counterproductive stereotype” about how evil they are.

Lobbyists are professional liars (or at least a lot of them are; some of my best friends are lobbyists and they are not) and so the lobbyists cited in the story were surely joking. For example, one jab from Obama was that lobbyists had “rigged” the tax code “at the behest of corporations.” Yes, that surely is a BIG LIE. (Note: Like lobbyists, Obama is a liar too; in his address he attacked lobbyists but he loves to take campaign money from them.)

The Hill story said the “influence industry [is] used to getting blamed for Washington’s dysfunction.” There is a good reason for that: it is in large part to blame for Washington’s dysfunction.

And no one is, or was, more symptomatic or responsible for this pathetic state of dysfunction than Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., who died last September. Boggs, who in DC was universally known as “Tommy,” was barely known beyond the Beltway so it’s likely that most Americans had never heard his name. But here in the capital his passing was treated as a national tragedy and triggered a period of intense public mourning. [Note to readers: I originally wrote this story last fall for Racket, which no longer exists. Boggs has been dead for a while so it would have been better to run back then, but his legacy is alive and well.]

He was “a passionate advocate for American workers and middle-class families,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said of Boggs. Her counterpart in the upper chamber, Harry Reid, called him an “institution” and then-Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, where Boggs was born, said his death “leaves emptiness in our hearts.”

The DC media was no less reverential. Politico said he was part of the “political aristocracy” and a man of “unparalleled reputation.” The Washington Post’s obituary described him as a man known for his “gregarious charisma” and “deep-rooted connections to American political life,” and a follow-up piece reported that his friends were paying their respects by stopping by The Palm, “the venerable steakhouse” where a table he customarily occupied was “draped in a black tablecloth.”

So who was this champion of the common people and man of such unimpeachable integrity? The head of a charitable organization? A philanthropist? An advocate for the poor?

No, Boggs was a richly-paid lobbyist who ran his firm like a brothel, once saying, “We pick our clients by taking the first one who comes in the door.” With that as his guiding principle, Boggs and his firm compiled a client list that included America’s biggest, most criminally minded corporations and the world’s worst dictators.

For anyone with a moral compass, merely being an associate of Boggs would constitute a dark secret, akin to being related to Charles Manson or not recycling. But he was revered in official Washington and became one of the city’s most powerful people despite having spent virtually no time in government. Boggs briefly served in the LBJ administration, helping organize President Johnson’s antipoverty tour of Appalachia in 1964, but resigned after fifteen months because he didn’t like living on a government salary. Nor did he ever hold elective office. The one time he sought public approval, in a 1970 run for a House seat, Maryland voters overwhelmingly rejected him.

But he thrived at influence peddling and for years his firm, Patton Boggs, took in more money than any lobby shop in town. Boggs’s original source of success was access he gained through bloodlines – his father was a former Democratic majority leader in the House and his mother served nine terms in Congress – and over the years he increased his influence by shoveling a generous slice of his lobbying profits to politicians who could help his clients. Between 1989 and this year he and his firm’s staff and PAC made more than $10 million in political donations. The five biggest recipients were, in order, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Kerry, Mitt Romney and George W. Bush.

All this made Boggs a fixture in DC’s top circles and he lived a life surrounded by fellow members of the country’s disconnected and unaccountable political elite. In that sense, the Palm, which Boggs co-owned at one time, was a fitting place for his unofficial wake. It caters almost exclusively to corporate executives, lobbyists and politicians because no one else can afford to eat there. (The menu includes a $72 filet mignon topped with crabmeat and Hollandaise Sauce, which may explain Boggs’s fatal heart attack.)

Boggs was a Democrat but Patton Boggs, like all big Washington lobbying firms, hired from both sides of the aisle and its past and current staff reads like an Encyclopedia of Contemporary Sociopaths and Miscreants. On the Democratic side there were Lanny Davis (a former special counsel to President Bill Clinton who later went on to represent Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea, Africa’s longest reigning dictator, and coup plotters in Honduras who overthrew an elected president); former Louisiana senator John Breaux (“My vote cannot be bought but it can be rented,” he remarked while serving in Congress), and former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown (another uber-sleaze who was sanctified by the national press corps after his death, in a 1996 plane crash, and who while at Patton Boggs headed up the account for Baby Doc Duvalier of Haiti).

On the GOP side Patton Boggs lobbyists have included Ben Ginsberg (who as national counsel to the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign helped engineer the theft of the 2000 election through his central role in the Florida recount); Stephen Sharp (who with backing from the Reverend Jerry Falwell had been appointed by President Reagan to the Federal Communications Commission and who left Patton Boggs after being arrested on charges of oral sodomy and aggravated sexual battery in a case involving three young boys); and Trent Lott (the former Mississippi Senator who like Boggs is beloved in official Washington but possibly best remembered by his African-American constituents for regularly addressing the white-supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, once telling its members they stood “for the right principles and the right philosophy.”)

Boggs’s specialty was helping clients exploit the deregulatory fervor that blossomed during the Reagan era and has flourished ever since. In 1996, he won tens of millions of dollars for MCI in a huge telecommunications bill and continued to lobby for the firm after its merger with WorldCom two years later. His contract ended in 2006, after MCI WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers was sentenced to 25 years in prison as a result of the company’s fraudulent financial reporting, which led to more than $100 million in investor losses.

Boggs also lobbied for the American Bankers Association, on whose behalf he helped repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, the Great Depression era law that separated commercial and investment banking. Killing Glass-Steagall led slowly but surely to the 2008 economic meltdown and helped swell the incredible political power of Wall Street.

Boggs was no more selective on the foreign front. His firm’s clients included General Romeo Lucas García, who held power in Guatemala for four years in the early 1980s and killed an average of about 200 people every day. “He obliterated the urban political opposition with a policy of selective assassination” and “sought to wipe out the rural base of the country’s leftist guerrilla organizations by slaughtering the mainly indigenous Mayan peasantry,” was how the Guardian once summed things up.

Boggs’s chief aim as lobbyist was to restore military aid to the Lucas government, which had been cut off by a few squeamish members of congress. A 1992 account in Spy magazine recounted a meeting between the lobbyist and a congressional staffer who wasn’t swallowing Boggs’s storyline about the Lucas regime’s noble intentions. “These guys are murderers and thugs,” the staffer told Boggs.

“What would convince you that they’re moving in the right direction?” Boggs asked.

“I’d be impressed if they undertook a land reform program,” the staffer replied.

“You want a land reform program?” Boggs asked eagerly. “I can have a land reform program on your desk this afternoon.”

Boggs’ firm’s old client Baby Doc died just a few weeks after he did, and his Washington Post obituary was quite a bit more straightforward about his personal shortcomings. He presided over “widespread killing, torture and plunder” and when tens of thousands of desperate Haitian “boat people” fled for the U.S., Duvalier’s response “was to demand kickbacks from their unscrupulous human smugglers,” the Post wrote.

The obituary noted that Baby Doc courted the United States “with promises of human-rights reforms and a business-friendly economic policy,” though it of course didn’t mention the role that Patton Boggs and the dictator’s other PR hacks played in packaging his message and helping keep him in power. As Ron Brown once wrote in a letter to “Monsieur le President,” he was aiming to “substantially increase American aid” to the regime and he blamed the international media for Baby Doc’s “unfair image.”

Any remotely honest obituary of Boggs would have prominently noted that he was the original Washington bottom-feeder, that he made the rich richer and the poor poorer, and that he did it by lobbying for the worst people in the world.

Patton Boggs recently merged with another lobbying firm and is now called Squire Patton Boggs. It still represents bad clients and is still one of the most powerful lobbying firms in town.

I was just finishing up this story and found this on the firm’s website: “Squire Patton Boggs has lost its beloved Chairman Emeritus Thomas Hale Boggs, Jr. This is a very sad time for our firm, for the Boggs family and for all who were privileged to know and to work with him.”

I am sure it is sad for his family and for the firm, but no one else should be sad.

And that is the sort of obituary you can count on from me down the road.

Washington Babylon’s Most Cherished Tradition: The Lazy Friday Playlist

Well, here we go with this week’s edition of Lazy Friday Playlist. And I’m really hoping this will be a lazy Friday because I have been working 16 hour-plus days and need to slow down. The fruits of my labor may not be entirely apparent, but they will be soon (in the pages of Washington Babylon and elsewhere.)

We may have another item or two later today and we may not. But we’ll most very definitely be back next week with more of Hack List 2017 — click here for the last installment — as well as fresh stories and updates on scandals we recently unearthed.

Anyway, for now here’s our new Playlist. (Not impossible I’ve included some of these songs on prior Playlists, hard to keep track.) Share, mock, critique, whatever. And by all means have a good weekend.

The Notorious B.I.G/ Going Back to Cali

Nicki Minaj, Drake, Lil Wayne/No Frauds (I think I have mentioned this before but my daughter wrote a critique of Nicki from a Feminist/Marxist perspective and it was seriously brilliant.)

Pape & Cheikh/Mariama

Amadou & Mariam featuring Manu Chao/Sénégal Fast Food

Manu Chao/¿Que hora son mi corazón?

Shakira/Me Enamoré

Esto Es Ska II/Desorden Publico

Si Estuvieras Aquí (Versión Acústica)/Los Amigos Invisibles

J Balvin and Willy William,featuring Beyoncé/Mi Gente

Jackson 5/I Want You Back

Gimme Shelter/Rolling Stones

Dead Flowers/Rolling Stones (and multiple other great versions)

Crawling to the U.S.A./Elvis Costello & The Attractions

White Room/Cream

Smooth/Santana

Volunteers/Jefferson Airplane

Sweet Home Alabama/Lynyrd Skynyrd

Dancing Queen/ABBA

 

 

 

Washington Babylon's Most Cherished Tradition: The Lazy Friday Playlist

Well, here we go with this week’s edition of Lazy Friday Playlist. And I’m really hoping this will be a lazy Friday because I have been working 16 hour-plus days and need to slow down. The fruits of my labor may not be entirely apparent, but they will be soon (in the pages of Washington Babylon and elsewhere.)

We may have another item or two later today and we may not. But we’ll most very definitely be back next week with more of Hack List 2017 — click here for the last installment — as well as fresh stories and updates on scandals we recently unearthed.

Anyway, for now here’s our new Playlist. (Not impossible I’ve included some of these songs on prior Playlists, hard to keep track.) Share, mock, critique, whatever. And by all means have a good weekend.

The Notorious B.I.G/ Going Back to Cali

Nicki Minaj, Drake, Lil Wayne/No Frauds (I think I have mentioned this before but my daughter wrote a critique of Nicki from a Feminist/Marxist perspective and it was seriously brilliant.)

Pape & Cheikh/Mariama

Amadou & Mariam featuring Manu Chao/Sénégal Fast Food

Manu Chao/¿Que hora son mi corazón?

Shakira/Me Enamoré

Esto Es Ska II/Desorden Publico

Si Estuvieras Aquí (Versión Acústica)/Los Amigos Invisibles

J Balvin and Willy William,featuring Beyoncé/Mi Gente

Jackson 5/I Want You Back

Gimme Shelter/Rolling Stones

Dead Flowers/Rolling Stones (and multiple other great versions)

Crawling to the U.S.A./Elvis Costello & The Attractions

White Room/Cream

Smooth/Santana

Volunteers/Jefferson Airplane

Sweet Home Alabama/Lynyrd Skynyrd

Dancing Queen/ABBA

 

 

 

Hack List 2017: Dean Baquet and the Staff of the New York Times

So there’s been some confusion, similar to what happened not long ago when La La Land, or whatever that crap movie was called, was announced as the Oscar winner for Best Picture and it turned out the real winner was the vastly overrated Moonlight.

Yesterday I announced on social media that Nicholas Kristof — yeah, I know, his sanctimonious liberal White Man’s Burden routine gets on your nerves too — would be written about for today’s installment of Hack List 2017. However, what’s the point of writing about Kristof?

(I will below, mostly recycled stuff I published ages ago but a bunch of fresh material too. And by the way, has anyone heard that Kristof, who is married to a former private wealth advisor for Goldman Sachs, has a child who worked last year as a “Summer Analyst” for the reviled and crooked Och-Ziff Capital Management? If that’s true, I’ll be curious to see what Nicholas K. writes about Och-Ziff or about Harvard-based Black Diamond Capital Investors, whose snotty, smug president and CEO is named Geoffrey Kristof, and who very much appears to be Nicholas K’s son based on the latter’s bio.)

(By the way, I’m not rolling out Hack List 2017 in any special order. We’ll rank the Top Ten after posting stories about all the finalists, and then I’ll milk all this for another, easy post where I rank them. I’m not sure how long this process will take but it should be done by the end of the year. For previous installments of Hack List 2017, click here and here.)

Anyway, Nicholas K. has become a joke and he’s been written about to death. So I decided to write about what is almost never written about — except by me –namely the horrible tenure of Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times since May 2014.

Some of what I’m about to write is recycled, like this article in which I discuss what happened to Baquet, as he transitioned from being a newsman from New Orleans (who attended Columbia University) to being a rich New Yorker who has the most conventional, cautious views, which is reflected in the New York Times‘ conventional, cautious pages. Then there’s the newspaper’s outlandish, over-the-top Fake News coverage of the so-called Russiagate affair, along with much of the rest of the media, which has allowed Donald Trump to coin the term “Fake News,” even though there’s definitely some interesting things to explore regarding Trump’s relationship with Russia.

Say what you will about former executive editor Jill Abramson, who Baquet replaced, at least she had a pair of balls and the paper was far better when she ran it. Baquet has taken a once decent newspaper and turned it into a centrist, boring rag that is essentially a mouthpiece for cautious, conventional, centrist Democrats and foodies.

(By the way, in that piece of mine cited above I noted that the Times‘ editorial page is dominated by Clinton shills that I call The Execrables: Tom Friedman, Paul Krugman, Charles Blow, Gail Collins, Frank Bruni and Nicholas Kristof. Though to be fair, it also runs conservative halfwits like Bret Stephens, author of an idiotic op-ed about climate change and of such scintillating stories, which I never read, as “I Believe Some of Your Best Friends Are Jewish,” “Hurricanes, Climate and the Capitalist Offset,” and “The Dying Art of Disagreement.”

Baquet is African-American, which is ironic because under him African-Americans and other minorities have had a very difficult time, unless they are educated at elite universities and wear pearls or loafers to the office and don’t write anything too controversial. Another thing I don’t like about Baquet — who I worked for at the Los Angeles Times; more below — is that this mild-mannered man is almost universally liked (in public anyway).

As a newspaper editor, you need to be respected but not liked — just ask my long suffering staff –and if more than ten percent of your reporters (and the public) like you, you’re doing something wrong. Baquet has no moral backbone; he’s sort of the Barack and Michelle Obama of newspapering, and not just because he’s Black as well.

As I mentioned above, I worked for Baquet when he was a top editor — maybe even the top editor, as a matter of fact I think he was — at the Los Angeles Times. I went to St. Louis in 2004 to cover bogus GOP charges of voter fraud by Democrats — and mind you, Republicans had done so much to defraud voters and suppress African-American turnout in 2000 that the George W. Bush administration’s Justice Department was forced to  to monitor the election four years later to prevent a repeat — and wrote a story about it.

But terrified Baquet intervened and had reporters sent to three other states so the Times could run a “balanced,” meaningless story saying that Republicans and Democrats were both claiming the other side was cheating. I vigorously protested to Baquet via email and left the Times not long afterwards for a far better job as Washington correspondent for Harper’s. (Before leaving I had sent my emails to Baquet to Michael Massing, who used them for a story in the New York Review of Books. That was probably a factor in my leaving the Times, which occurred not long after Massing’s story appeared.)

In terms of staff Hacks at the New York Times, you might read this article by me in the New York Observer and learn about the vastly overrated Maggie Haberman, who, one Clinton 2016 campaign official said, “We have had… tee up stories for us before and have never been disappointed”; the unctuous Glenn Thrush, who while covering the 2016 election for Politico apologized in an email to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta for writing a story draft that he feared was too critical, writing, “I have become a hack I will send u the whole section that pertains to u. Please don’t share or tell anyone I did this Tell me if I fucked up anything”; and the newspaper’s pathetic media columnist, Big Jim Rutenberg, about whom nothing further needs to be said, at least here.

As to Times columnist Tom-Ass Friedman, check out my story in Baffler. It was about the godawful think tank Center for American Progress, but has some funny stuff about Tom-Ass, like this:

Try to conjure up the dullest, most vapid intellectual experience you can possibly imagine. A Matthew Perry film festival. A boxed set of Kenny G’s entire discography. Al Gore “in conversation” with Wolf Blitzer.

Now imagine something worse. Far, far worse. Once you’ve hit the speculative bottom of the unexamined life, you’d be hard pressed to outdo Thomas Friedman holding forth on “Climate Change and the Arab Spring.” What’s still more disturbing is that Friedman’s maunderingsunlike the foregoing litany of intellectual failures—actually took place, and were recorded for posterity, during a panel event this February at the Center for American Progress, America’s most influential liberal think tank. The great globalizing muse of the New York Times op-ed page was joined on stage by Anne-Marie Slaughter, the Princeton University professor and former State Department deputy to Hillary Clinton.

You may be assured that the trite speculations came fast, flat, and furious.

(Matt Taibbi, of course, has written a ton of great stuff about Tom-Ass, including this.)

As to Kristof, it’s sort of funny because just the other day I got a personal email from him, saying, “Look, I’m not a marketer. I’m a Times columnist, and my passion is shining a light on neglected stories. As when I sneaked into the Nuba Mountains of Sudan to report on atrocities unfolding there (Which, because of the media attention, may be ending. Please keep your fingers crossed.).”
[Editor’s note: Please STFU you sanctimonious bore. Nothing good comes of what you write, for example, see my article about how you totally fucked up Sudan and South Sudan along with George Clooney.]
After this opening Kristof asked me to give the Times money. I didn’t.
In any case, if you skim Kristof’s vast catalogue of semiweekly homilies you’ll see he writes with a confidence in progressivism I might otherwise associate with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
In a 2010 Teen Ink interview he said, “One of the reasons for a lot of suffering in poor countries isn’t just low income but is really bad spending decisions — those are disproportionally by men. The amount of money that very poor families spend on alcohol, tobacco, prostitution and, you know, CocaCola . . . instead of educating their kids … It’s pretty dramatic and, essentially, that is a function of men controlling those purse-strings.”
He was probably more or less reading from his own column, Moonshine or the Kids, in which he wrote, “[If] the poorest families spent as much money educating their children as they do on wine, cigarettes and prostitutes, their children’s prospects would be transformed. Much suffering is caused not only by low incomes, but also by shortsighted private spending decisions by heads of households.”
Without missing a beat he embraces a sincere belief in bootstrapping that combines the spirit of the public reformist and life-coach: “That probably sounds sanctimonious, haughty and callous, but it’s been on my mind while traveling through central Africa with a college student on my annual win-a-trip journey.” Sure, this was about the Congo, but we’re still clearly in White Man’s Burden territory.
In a more recent piece, “3 TVs and No Food,” Kristof gives us another taste of this same garbage:
The home, filthy and chaotic with a broken front door, reeks of marijuana. The televisions and Emanuel’s bed add an aspirational middle-class touch, but they were bought on credit and are at risk of being repossessed. The kitchen is stacked with dirty dishes, and not much else.
I bet this guy’s kitchen is appointed with great appliances. I bet he’s got one of those new dryers that plays Mozart when the cycle’s done. But he goes on to write, “Liberals too often are reluctant to acknowledge that struggling, despairing people sometimes compound their misfortune by self-medicating or engaging in irresponsible, self-destructive behavior.”
Yeah, shit head, just like some rich, privileged people like you snort coke or drive drunk, but I haven’t seen you writing about that. (Note: I have no knowledge that Kristof snorts coke or drives drunk; I hope not because it would take all the pleasure out of those activities.)(Note: I don’t do that stuff, nor do I condone it.)
The self-effacing aw-shucks who-me? kind of empathy-building to which I draw your attention above: It’s kind of his thing, like a street magician’s patter. We see it in the chuckle. We see it when he chooses to own his sanctimony. We see it when he says, “I’m no expert on domestic poverty,” and then lectures us about that very subject in great detail.
Clucking at the lower classes for getting their priorities mixed-up as they lead dissolute lives is annoying in itself and all the more so when Kristof uses feminism to voice a creepy paternalism. It’s a lot of fatherly sermonizing that I suppose wins approving harrumphs from devotees of his new Babbittry.
Kristof’s the co-author with his previously mentioned wife, Sheryl WuDunn, of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. This less than dynamic duo have certainly turned oppression into personal opportunity, to the tune of about $50,000 for a joint speaking appearance where they “give a voice to the voiceless.”

It’s particularly disgusting since, as previously reported in these pages, Kristof’s specialty is traveling to poor countries and finding a photogenic native here and there who is doing God’s work with the help of Western NGOs and Hollywood movie stars. For example, he helped make Somaly Mam, founder of an anti-sex trafficking group called Helping Women in Danger, into an international celebrity. The only problem is that Mam was a total fraud; she misappropriated vast sums of donor money and her personal tale of heroism — she claimed she had sold to a brothel and escaped after ten years – was about as fact-based as the Pippi Longstocking trilogy. (Still one of my favorites works of non-fiction.)

Kristof also has been an advocate for the apparel industry in countries like Cambodia. He calls apparel work an “escalator” out of poverty, though there’s little evidence to support that. In Cambodia, most apparel workers get paid terribly and work in terrible conditions and dead-end jobs.

I’m not sure what Kristof makes at the Times — please email me at ken@washingtonbabylon.com if you do — but he’s clearly very well paid. WuDunn, meanwhile, is a senior banker “who helps growth companies, including those operating in the fields of new media technology, entertainment, social media, healthcare, and the emerging markets, particularly China,” according to her bio.

As to journalists and their speaking gigs, Washington Babylon has approached the speaking bureau of Vox editor and Hillary Clinton surrogate Ezra Klein, using the alias of Emma Stoffels. Young Stoffels was meant to be a campus activist recruiting speakers for a sizzling event next spring: “The 2017 Millennial Policy Summit: What Happens Now?”

It turned out that Klein, a principled opponent of a $15 minimum wage, wanted $30,750, plus hotel accommodations, meals and incidentals. Median household income in the United States was $56,500 in 2015 so Klein apparently takes in more than half of what a typical family lives on for a full year. (Klein, rest assured, will be making an appearance on Hack List 2017 soon.)

How do the Kristof-WuDunn duo make out?

Well, first off, it’s great to know that Kristof “always keeps audiences on the edge of their seat in enthralling presentations that catapult many into action themselves. As a master story teller with an unmatched reputation and peerless perspective on the events that shape our world, listeners find themselves glued to their seats and captivated by moving, first-hand global stories until, of course, the inevitable, emotive standing ovation at every engagement’s end.”

Emma Stoffels also inquired about the possibility of Kristof and WuDunn addressing the Millennials conference. Kristof’s fee was $30,000 and WuDunn’s was $20,000 — and both also demand first class travel expenses — for a combined $50,000. Not bad pay for giving a voice to the voiceless.

Anyway, getting back to Baquet, let’s just say, because this story is quite long, that as executive editor he is responsible for this whole sad affair. It’s a disgrace.

Coming soon: Jeff Bezos and the staff of the Washington Post.

Updated With Name of TOP SECRET DONOR DECLAN GANLEY! Hack List, Prelude: Richard “Richie Rich” Miniter

In my first installment of the Hack List 2017, I mentioned a number of people that I would not be including in the Top Ten (or Top Six, or whatever number I settle on). In that story I didn’t mention a man named Richard Miniter of the unknown and unread (and possibly out of business, it’s hard to tell) American Media Institute (AMI).

It was an oversight that I wish to correct now for Miniter, like many of the people in my first installment, can’t be included on the Hack List because he’s not really a journalist, he’s a political propagandist posing as one. But I want to discuss him because he still owes me $12,000 for work I did for AMI — more below — and because he and his group deserve to be exposed and scrutinized.

On its website, AMI says it is committed to “First & Fearless Reporting” — whatever that means — and says it is “a non-profit investigative news service founded by veterans of the Wall Street Journal and Reader’s Digest, who love a good story and follow the facts wherever they lead us.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The AMI was funded by right-wing donors and Miniter had ambitions of running it as an influence shop disguised as a ProPublica knockoff, but he was too fat, boozed up, lazy, dishonest, cowardly and incompetent to make it happen. 

I briefly referred to Miniter in another story in these pages as AMI’s grifter-in-chief — who I once saw driving a cherry red convertible sports car and he also drove around in a black BMW convertible coupe — while overseeing his non-profit group’s funds, which he spent extravagantly but not on journalism, of which his organization produced virtually none.

Anyway, according to a story in the New York Observer, AMI’s funders “include the major donor and hedge fund honcho Sean Fieler, an outspoken anti-gay marriage advocate, a retired UPS accounting executive, a former executive at the GE plant in Schenectady and the owner of a trucking company in West Texas. According to Mr. Miniter, he has never met the organization’s largest donor, who has remained anonymous and contributed through a lawyer.”

Miniter may not have met the largest donor but he knew exactly who it was: an Irish  telecommunications oligarch named Declan Ganley, who “has built businesses across Europe, Russia, and latterly, the United States,” and who had a great deal of influence at AMI. 

By the way, Miniter once asked me to call Fieler, who he told me had a great presidential campaign story. It sounded good but Fieler said all he had was gossip he’d heard and couldn’t confirm. Miniter pushed me and others to pursue the story and we pretended to but dropped it because it was clearly untrue or unprovable and Miniter wanted to publish it as a favor to Fieler.

Miniter is a classic case of a privileged white man — he wore preppy yellow sweaters and bow ties, and smoked cigars — who failed upward in journalism. It appears, based on his Wikipedia page, that he started out in 1989 as a Fellow at George Mason Institute for Humane Studies and also joined the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank known for being a mouthpiece for its business donors.

His career also included stints as Assistant Producer for a PBS show called “Technopolitics,” producing a syndicated radio show called “Enterprising Women,” and a post on the Editorial board of Wall Street Journal Europe, where he wrote a column called “The Visible Hand.” In 2002 he published The Myth of Market Share. “I am the CEO of a small company and don’t know how this man in able to publish,” wrote a reviewer on the book’s Amazon page. “He butchers the English language and is terrible at articulating ideas.”

Available evidence suggests that Miniter was a garden-variety libertarian who learned his trade in think-tanks, busied himself with market strategy and might’ve otherwise enjoyed his years churning out books for faithful MBAs about guerrilla merchandising, but he transformed himself by milking 9/11. Like the saying goes, don’t look a gift cash cow in the mouth but hop on, kick it till it bucks, and say an eight-second prayer.

Following 9/11 Miniter wrote a series for the Sunday Times titled The Road to Ground Zero, and books like Losing Bin Laden: How Bill Clinton’s Failures Unleashed Global Terror and Shadow War: The Untold Story of How America is Winning the War on Terror. In all he wrote five terrible books on terror in a mere eight years, a triumph of quantity if not quality.

He also held top positions at the Washington Times — he seems to have run the paper into the ground but it looks like he got a boodle of cash from the Moonie owners after his brief tenure — and had some connection to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a liberal group. (This article about him refers to him as a “neoconservative turd,” which is pretty good, though I can’t vouch for the rest of the story.)

He claims to have founded Alexandria, Virginia based AMI in 2012 and the fact that you’ve never heard of it says a lot. I was briefly employed there and the place was embroiled in turmoil with high staff turnover — there were charges of sexual harassment and people doing no work and getting paid high salaries — and virtually nothing got published in terms of investigative work. 

One reason that nothing got done was that the plush offices had a full bar and employees sat around and drank a lot and smoked cigars. (I worked from home.) Miniter spent richly on things that had little to do with journalism, like an air purifier to facilitate cigar smoking and hiring a bus to take employees to a horse race. (I didn’t go.)

He hired a number of African-American reporters — some of them good ones — with the idea of influencing elections in the GOP’s favor and there was some weird idea about social engineering that I heard discussed but never understood. This was linked to the AMI’s “Urban News Service” project, which was sort of like a news wire for a large group of African-American community newspapers. The only problem was that under Miniter’s leadership, AMI produced such shitty stories that no one wanted to run them, not even content-starved, poor African-American community newspapers.

I was told I would have total independence at AMI but it was clear they wanted stories with a political slant that favored Republicans and conservative policies, though it wasn’t always clear what angle they were playing. There was no doubt that Miniter was looking to push political stories donors wanted and to attract new ones.

I got paid well by AMI and only published one story, because Miniter was too incompetent to run the place and because of political issues, so I ran a number of things I pitched to him in other outlets. The only story I managed to publish, and it was a mammoth struggle, was about the Clinton Foundation in Colombia.

It was a good story and ran in Fusion, but it had a few mistakes, mainly because Miniter claimed the story had been rigorously fact-checked at AMI and it turned out it hadn’t, which required a correction. The story also ran on AMI’s website and Miniter refused to update the story with corrections — they did not undermine the thesis, which was that the Clinton Foundation’s efforts in Colombia were pathetic and enriched one of its main donors — even though he repeatedly promised he would. So he just let it sit there with errors he was well aware of.

The funniest part of the story is that I had planned a trip to Colombia with another reporter and had lined up a series of interviews on Day One with three senators. A few days before departing Miniter’s secretary told me to reschedule the trip so Miniter could go. I refused because it was a stupid idea. Miniter just wanted a freebie vacation and to sit around a nice hotel while me and the other reporter did all the work.

Also, he’s a loud, obnoxious American who to my knowledge speaks no Spanish and his presence would have hindered the work and attracted the worst sort of attention, especially in the poor areas of Bogota and Cartagena, where I spent much of my time.

What’s also funny is that Miniter has told a mutual friend that he fucked with me by not paying me the final $12,000 he owed me. But in the end I fucked him because I got paid a lot more than that — not to mention a paid vacation in Colombia, two or three trips to Miami and working two hour days for months at full-time salary — even though I wasn’t able to publish what I wanted. Also, I see this article as pay back too.

Last I heard, AMI was on the brink of bankruptcy as a result of its inability to attract more donor money. Which makes sense: no one likes to see their cash misspent so egregiously for so little result.

Note: I’ll be back soon with the first real installment of Hack List 2017, on Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times.

Updated With Name of TOP SECRET DONOR DECLAN GANLEY! Hack List, Prelude: Richard "Richie Rich" Miniter

In my first installment of the Hack List 2017, I mentioned a number of people that I would not be including in the Top Ten (or Top Six, or whatever number I settle on). In that story I didn’t mention a man named Richard Miniter of the unknown and unread (and possibly out of business, it’s hard to tell) American Media Institute (AMI).

It was an oversight that I wish to correct now for Miniter, like many of the people in my first installment, can’t be included on the Hack List because he’s not really a journalist, he’s a political propagandist posing as one. But I want to discuss him because he still owes me $12,000 for work I did for AMI — more below — and because he and his group deserve to be exposed and scrutinized.

On its website, AMI says it is committed to “First & Fearless Reporting” — whatever that means — and says it is “a non-profit investigative news service founded by veterans of the Wall Street Journal and Reader’s Digest, who love a good story and follow the facts wherever they lead us.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The AMI was funded by right-wing donors and Miniter had ambitions of running it as an influence shop disguised as a ProPublica knockoff, but he was too fat, boozed up, lazy, dishonest, cowardly and incompetent to make it happen. 

I briefly referred to Miniter in another story in these pages as AMI’s grifter-in-chief — who I once saw driving a cherry red convertible sports car and he also drove around in a black BMW convertible coupe — while overseeing his non-profit group’s funds, which he spent extravagantly but not on journalism, of which his organization produced virtually none.

Anyway, according to a story in the New York Observer, AMI’s funders “include the major donor and hedge fund honcho Sean Fieler, an outspoken anti-gay marriage advocate, a retired UPS accounting executive, a former executive at the GE plant in Schenectady and the owner of a trucking company in West Texas. According to Mr. Miniter, he has never met the organization’s largest donor, who has remained anonymous and contributed through a lawyer.”

Miniter may not have met the largest donor but he knew exactly who it was: an Irish  telecommunications oligarch named Declan Ganley, who “has built businesses across Europe, Russia, and latterly, the United States,” and who had a great deal of influence at AMI. 

By the way, Miniter once asked me to call Fieler, who he told me had a great presidential campaign story. It sounded good but Fieler said all he had was gossip he’d heard and couldn’t confirm. Miniter pushed me and others to pursue the story and we pretended to but dropped it because it was clearly untrue or unprovable and Miniter wanted to publish it as a favor to Fieler.

Miniter is a classic case of a privileged white man — he wore preppy yellow sweaters and bow ties, and smoked cigars — who failed upward in journalism. It appears, based on his Wikipedia page, that he started out in 1989 as a Fellow at George Mason Institute for Humane Studies and also joined the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank known for being a mouthpiece for its business donors.

His career also included stints as Assistant Producer for a PBS show called “Technopolitics,” producing a syndicated radio show called “Enterprising Women,” and a post on the Editorial board of Wall Street Journal Europe, where he wrote a column called “The Visible Hand.” In 2002 he published The Myth of Market Share. “I am the CEO of a small company and don’t know how this man in able to publish,” wrote a reviewer on the book’s Amazon page. “He butchers the English language and is terrible at articulating ideas.”

Available evidence suggests that Miniter was a garden-variety libertarian who learned his trade in think-tanks, busied himself with market strategy and might’ve otherwise enjoyed his years churning out books for faithful MBAs about guerrilla merchandising, but he transformed himself by milking 9/11. Like the saying goes, don’t look a gift cash cow in the mouth but hop on, kick it till it bucks, and say an eight-second prayer.

Following 9/11 Miniter wrote a series for the Sunday Times titled The Road to Ground Zero, and books like Losing Bin Laden: How Bill Clinton’s Failures Unleashed Global Terror and Shadow War: The Untold Story of How America is Winning the War on Terror. In all he wrote five terrible books on terror in a mere eight years, a triumph of quantity if not quality.

He also held top positions at the Washington Times — he seems to have run the paper into the ground but it looks like he got a boodle of cash from the Moonie owners after his brief tenure — and had some connection to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a liberal group. (This article about him refers to him as a “neoconservative turd,” which is pretty good, though I can’t vouch for the rest of the story.)

He claims to have founded Alexandria, Virginia based AMI in 2012 and the fact that you’ve never heard of it says a lot. I was briefly employed there and the place was embroiled in turmoil with high staff turnover — there were charges of sexual harassment and people doing no work and getting paid high salaries — and virtually nothing got published in terms of investigative work. 

One reason that nothing got done was that the plush offices had a full bar and employees sat around and drank a lot and smoked cigars. (I worked from home.) Miniter spent richly on things that had little to do with journalism, like an air purifier to facilitate cigar smoking and hiring a bus to take employees to a horse race. (I didn’t go.)

He hired a number of African-American reporters — some of them good ones — with the idea of influencing elections in the GOP’s favor and there was some weird idea about social engineering that I heard discussed but never understood. This was linked to the AMI’s “Urban News Service” project, which was sort of like a news wire for a large group of African-American community newspapers. The only problem was that under Miniter’s leadership, AMI produced such shitty stories that no one wanted to run them, not even content-starved, poor African-American community newspapers.

I was told I would have total independence at AMI but it was clear they wanted stories with a political slant that favored Republicans and conservative policies, though it wasn’t always clear what angle they were playing. There was no doubt that Miniter was looking to push political stories donors wanted and to attract new ones.

I got paid well by AMI and only published one story, because Miniter was too incompetent to run the place and because of political issues, so I ran a number of things I pitched to him in other outlets. The only story I managed to publish, and it was a mammoth struggle, was about the Clinton Foundation in Colombia.

It was a good story and ran in Fusion, but it had a few mistakes, mainly because Miniter claimed the story had been rigorously fact-checked at AMI and it turned out it hadn’t, which required a correction. The story also ran on AMI’s website and Miniter refused to update the story with corrections — they did not undermine the thesis, which was that the Clinton Foundation’s efforts in Colombia were pathetic and enriched one of its main donors — even though he repeatedly promised he would. So he just let it sit there with errors he was well aware of.

The funniest part of the story is that I had planned a trip to Colombia with another reporter and had lined up a series of interviews on Day One with three senators. A few days before departing Miniter’s secretary told me to reschedule the trip so Miniter could go. I refused because it was a stupid idea. Miniter just wanted a freebie vacation and to sit around a nice hotel while me and the other reporter did all the work.

Also, he’s a loud, obnoxious American who to my knowledge speaks no Spanish and his presence would have hindered the work and attracted the worst sort of attention, especially in the poor areas of Bogota and Cartagena, where I spent much of my time.

What’s also funny is that Miniter has told a mutual friend that he fucked with me by not paying me the final $12,000 he owed me. But in the end I fucked him because I got paid a lot more than that — not to mention a paid vacation in Colombia, two or three trips to Miami and working two hour days for months at full-time salary — even though I wasn’t able to publish what I wanted. Also, I see this article as pay back too.

Last I heard, AMI was on the brink of bankruptcy as a result of its inability to attract more donor money. Which makes sense: no one likes to see their cash misspent so egregiously for so little result.

Note: I’ll be back soon with the first real installment of Hack List 2017, on Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times.

The Hack List 2017: A nuanced introduction to a periodic series of essays on the current state of American political journalism and its most vile practitioners

[Note: I started writing this a long time ago. It really could use a lot of updating, but fuck it, it’s pretty good and I have a pile of work to do.]

When I thought about writing the Hack List 2017 some time back I was overcome with emotion because partisan and generally shitty journalism is a topic dear to my heart. But almost immediately I began to grapple with the inherent challenges, both personal and professional, of ranking America’s worst political reporters.

First off, it was the holiday season and my attention, like most everyone I imagine, was focused on the NFL and the Nazis. (And it still is, and that was some time ago, as I mentioned.) But even putting that aside (momentarily), it’s easy to identify 100, or even 1,000, truly terrible journalists, but narrowing that down to a Top Ten or Eleven or Twenty, as seemed prudent, appeared to be a scientific impossibility and roughly equivalent to making a definitive list of my favorite Nazis. However, if pressed, when it comes to Nazis, I could indeed make such a list. Say, in rough order, Reinhard Heydrich, Adolf Hitler, Josef Mengele, Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels and Tom Brady.

Hence, I pondered, how difficult would it be to come up with a similar list of the nation’s top propagandists, pathological fabricators and ass-kissers? Well, dear readers, it was far harder than I had imagined, especially because I obviously didn’t want something as serious as the Hack List to degenerate into redundant ad hominem name calling and personal attacks. Nor was I interested in settling scores with people I have previously written about and/or who have fired me because, for reasons that remain inexplicable, they deemed me difficult to work with. Finally, I didn’t want to include people who can’t really be called journalists by any reasonable definition of that word, but who, like Rachel Maddow or Sean Hannity, are tiresome and mindless PR drones.

As I scratched my chin in contemplation, another concern arose. In the unlikely event that I opted to go the ad hominem/score-settling route, might my important intellectual message be lost, namely that American journalism really sucks? Now more than ever?

In any event, I was reluctantly forced to drop many, many otherwise perfect candidates for reasons of space and clarity. Let me, purely for purposes of illustration, name a few.

—Clayton Swisher, a blundering lummox who was appointed to run Al Jazeera’s investigative unit despite having no real journalism experience because he is a pliant fool with moronic views on the Middle East, has no regard for the truth, and is eager to serve his paymaster, the government of Qatar. I suppose it’s probably worth noting here that for a month or so in 2013 I was employed at Al Jazeera and would prefer to be buried alive than work there again.

Swisher fired me for alleged insubordination because I refused to travel to Paris to work on his patently dishonest documentary that alleged that Israel murdered Yassir Arafat by poisoning him with polonium. Israel routinely murders its “enemies” and runs an apartheid state, but Arafat, who I long admired, was by then a corrupt poster boy for the Middle Eastern branch of NAMBLA and quite apparently died of complications related to old age. In seeking to prove that Israel murdered him with polonium, Swisher deliberately twisted and falsified information provided him in advance by a Swiss lab that worked closely with him on the story. (Note: I had already traveled to Paris once, and saw The Swish in action. I know of what I speak and that’s why I refused to have any further part of it.)

—Howard “Howie” Kurtz, a former Washington Post media critic and ethics guru who, according to one well-placed source, has not had sex in the current millennium (or the last) and who now, having found his natural bottom, works at Fox News. (Disclosure: Kurtz once attacked me for doing an undercover story for Harper’s, during which I exposed some of the nation’s worst lobbyists — and Kurtz’s sources — saying it showed I was unethical. Also, it’s not clear to me that Kurtz still works at Fox.) Tina Brown of Newsweek (or wherever she is now. Awful.) once fired Kurtz for “serial inaccuracy.” In an unrelated fuck up, Kurtz once wrote a story in which he quoted Congressman Darrell Issa, but he hadn’t spoken to him. In reality, Kurtz had interviewed an Issa aide who he mistook for the congressman.

—Joe Conason, a one-time Salon columnist, Democratic Party hack and MSNBC bloviator who I once described as “an irrelevant joke” in the New York Observer. (Where Conason once worked and where I remain, to the best of my knowledge, a columnist.) Conason, it’s worth noting, did not challenge that characterization or many others allegations I raised in the Observer. As I noted in the column – which focused on the former journalist Sidney Blumenthal, a close friend of Conason’s and one of the most amoral political hatchet men/women of this or any time — Conason began following me on Twitter but I didn’t follow him back because what he thinks is of less interest to me than Global Warming. (Disclosure: I don’t care much about Global Warming, beyond favoring it generally because I hate winter and future generations can deal with the problem as far as I’m concerned. And now that I’ve moved to sunny Miami I’m even less concerned about it.)

Eric Alterman, a former or current Adjunct Professor of Journalism who I once described in a Village Voice story as “3/4 brown noser, 1/4 cheeky chappy” and who once righteously criticized celebrity journalism and then, shortly thereafter, wrote a fawning profile of Melanie Griffith for Vanity Fair in a “prose style resembling a dog in heat,” as I put it in the Voice. Griffith did not, to my knowledge and lucidity, sleep with Alterman, which was clearly his delusional hope when writing the story.

Disclosure: In 1998, Salon’s media columnist, Susan Lehman, libeled and/or slandered my story on Alterman as a “vicious hatchet job.” About a decade later I remarked upon Alterman’s remarkable talent as a political prognosticator after he predicted that either Hillary Clinton or John Edwards would be the Democratic candidate in the 2008 election (he said he “loved” Barack Obama but that he was far too black to win the nomination) and wrote that Fred Thompson had “already won” on the GOP side. On an unrelated note, Alterman thinks it’s groovy to worship Bruce Springsteen, who he actually wrote a book about.

Anyway, as noted above, I thought about including these people on the Hack List but sadly, I concluded, I must omit them entirely and include other names.

One that came to mind was Voice of America vet Jamie Kirchik, who is a neocon tool and professional liar. But why solely single out Kirchik when there are hundreds more like him? To name only a few neocons who can’t distinguish between fantasy and reality, there is William Kristol of the Weekly Standard, who somewhat recently declared his support for Dick Cheney for president; Judith Miller*, the ex-New York Times reporter who, after discovering WMDs all over Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion of 2003 moved on to Fox News and Newsmax; Zionist entity Eli Lake, who not only discovered WMDs in Iraq before the invasion but found them years later as well (based on the word of one of Lake’s more credible sources, a deranged lunatic named David Gaubatz who in 2008 wrote a post about Obama at jihadishere.blogspot.com that read, “We are now on the verge of allowing a self admitted ‘crack-head’ to have his finger on every nuclear weapon in America”); Josh Rogin, Lake’s shoeshine boy; or Fred Hiatt, the white, non-Jewish editorial page editor of the Washington Post, who advocated invading Iraq, North Korea, Libya and Iran and who is relatively currently – and I say this only based on the sophistication of his past work – writing an editorial that calls for a preemptive strike on Saskatchewan because it is harboring ISIS remnants.

(*Note: My great friend Charles Glasser, who touchingly calls me “100 percent mental,” says Miller, cited above, is a credible journalist nowadays. But Charles is on drugs, legal ones as far as I know, they make him sleepy, or so he claims when we’re on the phone. That’s fiery rhetoric, Charles, do not sue!)

After discarding these conservative writers, I mulled over and rejected a number of boring liberal pontificators on the same grounds of irrelevancy, predictability, partisanship and lack of gravitas. To quickly mention a few there is smarmy, annoying TV personality Rachel Maddow, cited above, of MSNBC; Richard Cohen, the torture-loving, sexually-harassing Washington Post columnist who Alex Pareene named No. 1 on the 2010 Hack List and who thinks it’s brave to attack Nazis and is afraid of African-Americans (like all good Post liberals); Jeffrey Goldberg, who found WMDs in Iraq on behalf of the George W. Bush White House – with the help of a mentally ill prisoner who falsely claimed to have met Osama bin Laden, either in a tent or in a house, depending on which reporter he was lying to — which cited his work in justifying the 2003 invasion, and who also thinks Bruce Springsteen is jiffy; Mother Jones Washington bureau chief David Corn, who also thinks Bruce is AWESOME and who, as I have noted, can reliably be counted on to serve as a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party and who regularly attends events like the White House Correspondents Dinner, the annual suckfest at which Washington journalists and politicians do what they do best: pretending they have an adversarial relationship while kissing each other’s asses.

I also considered including a few people on the Hack List whose politics can’t readily be defined, mostly because they are mentally vacuous. I was tempted to write about, for example, the New York Times‘s Thomas Friedman, who composes most of his copy in cabs between overseas airports and luxury hotels, and whose only identifiable sources are taxi drivers, corporate CEOs and monarchs, but it would be hard to top Matt Taibbi’s work on him and I wrote about him once too (“It can be dangerous to disagree with me, for one reason,” I quoted him, accurately, as saying. “I don’t know anything.”); Bob Woodward, who was dishonest even in reporting Watergate, as Renata Adler has wonderfully described, and whose biography of John Belushi was so outrageously wrong that the actress Penny Marshall is reported to have said after reading it, “It makes you think that Richard Nixon may have been innocent”; and David Broder, the beloved Washington Post reporter who perfectly captured the established wisdom in Washington and who, like Woodward, I once busted for taking huge speaking fees from corporate interests without disclosing it to the public or the Post, in violation of the newspaper’s own rules. (Notes: The Post predictably let them both get away with it. Also, I decided not to include Broder on the Hack List because he’s dead.)

After a great deal of anguish, I finally settled on a few names. The key to making the selections was the realization that I didn’t want to randomly cast aspersions on journalism bottom-feeders; I also wanted to make thoughtful, reflective insights into the current state of the news business. Hence, I decided that to be worthy of inclusion on the Hack List, it wasn’t enough to be a simple moron; you had to cause real damage as well.

That’s why I settled on (among others) New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, a sanctimonious buffoon who a few deluded souls actually consider to be a real reporter. Kristof, who trots the globe with the White Man’s Burden (WMB) hanging heavily on his back, is the co-author with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn — a “senior banker focusing on growth companies” and a former private wealth adviser with Goldman Sachs — of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

Sorry, I’ll be right back, I need to have a good cry and admire Nick and Sheryl’s heroism and courage.

Coming soon: Nicholas Kristof, far from the top of the list.

You Can Read Time By Its Cover

Gosh, I wonder if this is going to be a puff piece?

Update: This gives new meaning to the term “Deep Throat.”

“The special counsel is, like Trump, the scion of a wealthy family, raised at a boarding school and educated in the Ivy League. But the life choices of Robert Swan Mueller III, 72, suggest a decidedly different temperament from the one that occupies the Oval Office. Unlike Trump, who says he has few if any personal heroes, Mueller’s path was marked by a profound admiration for a role model he met at Princeton, a student a year ahead of him named David Spencer Hackett.

“I played lacrosse with David,” Mueller explained last year in a speech at West Point. “He was not necessarily the best on the team, but he was a determined and a natural leader.” Hackett’s decision to join the Marine Corps, and his death in 1967 while rallying his platoon during an ambush in Vietnam, moved Mueller to follow in Hackett’s footsteps. “Many of us saw in him the person we wanted to be,” Mueller said.

“Trump once joked with radio shock jock Howard Stern that chasing women while risking STDs was his version of Vietnam, adding, “It is very dangerous.” He might have chosen a different analogy if he had served as Mueller did. Commissioned in the Marine Corps and trained at Army Ranger School, Lieut. Mueller led a rifle platoon in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. Wounded in combat, he received a Bronze Star with a V for valor as well as a Purple Heart and two Navy Commendation Medals.”

Which Side Are You On? When it comes to Trump and John Lewis, why must we choose?

Well, here we are a few days out from the inauguration and political discourse and intelligence in this country could not be any dumber. We should just officially proclaim as our national slogan “You’re Either For ‘Em or Agin Em” and acknowledge that for most Americans, the idea of holding two ideas in one’s head simultaneously is an impossible task.

This was demonstrated repeatedly during the campaign when voicing criticism of Trump was seen as evidence of being pro-Hillary, and vice versa. This black and white view of the world is reinforced by the media, which now demands rigid ideological conformity of the sort that used to be more restricted to the dueling idiot box outlets of Fox and MSNBC and the insipid, canned commentary of the likes of Bill O’Reilly and Rachel Maddow.

The latest example comes with the feud between Donald Trump and Congressman John Lewis. Take your side! It’s an easy call, right? You’re either a Trump supporter, in which case your man can do no wrong, or you’re a a Trump enemy, so you’re with John Lewis, “one of the most respected people in America,” according to a Washington Post headline yesterday.

May I suggest a more nuanced, sophisticated approach to this quarrel?

Trump is performing, as per usual, like a strutting peacock and has made some truly offensive remarks. There are reasons that only 8 percent of African-Americans voted for him and were infuriated by his remarks. Meanwhile, Lewis is a long-time hack whose continued political survival is a sign of the Democratic Party’s sickness and corruption.

The fact that Lewis marched with Martin Luther King many years ago is laudable but it should not confer permanent hero status on him. As Michael Tracey noted on Twitter, he long ago transformed himself into a sock puppet of the political establishment, including his role as a Hillary campaign surrogate deployed against Bernie Sanders.

Lewis’s political courage is seen in his long-time ties and support for the Faith and Politics Institute, which he co-chaired for eight years and aggressively promotes. This little-known organization is based in the DC swamp and it’s board is dominated by (white, just incidentally) lobbyists and representatives of do-good organizations like Goldman Sachs, Fluor, Microsoft and United Health Group, as well as former and current congressional staffers, including at least one of Lewis’s.

It’s a classic Washington influence peddling operation, as seen in its annual Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage across Alabama, which Lewis has led. The Institute apparently charges a minimum of $25,000 to participate and according to this story by Center for Public Integrity, a lot of the those who go along for the ride are corporations and donors to the Institute, along with members of congress.

The Center identified some of the corporate particpants as Wal-Mart, Pfizer, Altria and Freddie Mac (this story dates to before the housing collapse). “They [the lobbyists] have a sincere interest in the civil rights movement,” Lewis explained.

Uh huh.

Note: In appointing his cabinet Donald Trump seems to be procuring as many former Goldman Sachs executives as possible, but Lewis has a fairly friendly relationship with the firm as well. Check out, if you must, this scintillating conversation between him and the financial giant’s chairman, Lloyd Blankfein, the man who led a firm that lied to its own investors and who may have perjured himself before congress.

BuzzFeed's Golden Showers

OK, let me start this by saying that I’m a friend of Glenn Simpson, whose company reportedly produced, via a subcontractor, the now famous dossier on Donald Trump that was published by BuzzFeed and that has dominated the news for a week. I have a lot of respect for Glenn, who was a great journalist and whose firm is known to produce excellent research.

Let me also say that I think BuzzFeed has some first rate journalists but I’m not a fan of Ben Smith, the editor who made the decision to publish the dossier and who has offered the most self-serving and misleading explanation for doing so.

This is all by way of saying that, though I’m generally in favor of disclosure of documents behind stories and love to read the sort of salacious tales in the dossier, I think it was wrong for BuzzFeed to publish it and the media company bears responsibility for this debacle, which has made the entire profession look even worse and generated sympathy for, of all people, Donald Trump.

Simpson’s firm is being berated at the moment but there are a lot of companies in Washington who do the same thing — namely produce political and business intelligence for paying clients — and they operate openly and everyone, including journalists, know who they are. In terms of political intelligence, there are firms who work for Democrats and firms that work for Republicans, and some who work for both. The Democrats don’t have a monopoly on these firms as one might imagine from the current hysteria.

These firms produce internal reports for clients and sometimes those reports are intended to get published in the media. I’ve seen lots of the latter reports over the years from a variety of firms and some of them are excellent and some of them are of very poor quality. As a journalist, though, it’s understood that no one responsible takes a report like that and assumes it is all accurate or rushes it into print. And serious research firms acknowledge that their reports should only be seen as a step in the reporting process and that the information they contain should be verified and re-reported and sometimes consists of fairly raw intelligence.

Reporters know they have to do a lot of additional reporting before using their products but the firms can be excellent sources of information and story generators — especially because so few journalism outfits are willing to pay for research anymore — and a lot of journalists, including myself, reach out to these companies for story ideas or research support and then seek to independently verify any information received.

As has been widely reported, the Trump dossier had circulated for many months — at least as far back as August — and even though there was a fever on the part of the media to get anti-Trump stories into print, everyone with the exception of David Corn of Mother Jones declined to write about the “dossier,” and even he only referred to parts of it. The fact that dozens of journalists reviewed these documents and declined to use them, on the grounds that their allegations could not be verified shows that the information contained within them was very shaky.

I read the documents online and it’s clear that they are thinly sourced and there were apparently serious errors in them, for example the bit about Trump’s attorney’s trip to Prague. The Golden Showers story obviously attracted most of the attention — as BuzzFeed well knew when it published — but there’s no way to verify it and it seems very unlikely to be true, as much as people want to believe otherwise. 

Whatever you think of Trump, he won this embarrassing election under the rules of the game. (And yes, Hillary won the popular vote and in a serious democracy she would have been declared the winner, but we are stuck for the time being with the Electoral College.) The Golden Showers story is quite a sensational accusation to make given that he was about 10 days out from inauguration. If Hillary had won the election would Buzzfeed have posted an unproven dossier on her that alleged she had hired prostitutes during an overseas trip to Ukraine? I seriously doubt it, especially given Buzzfeed’s notable pro-Hillary tilt during the campaign.

(After Trump gained the Republican nomination, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti “told employees…that the media giant is dropping the Republican National Committee as an advertiser, now that Donald Trump is the party’s presumptive nominee. In an email to the staff, Peretti explained the decision, likening Trump ads to cigarette ads. “We don’t run cigarette ads because they are hazardous to our health,” Peretti wrote, “and we won’t accept Trump ads for the exact same reason.” According to Gawker, BuzzFeed’s president donated $10,000 to the DNC two weeks before that decision was made. It would be interesting to know if Buzzfeed received any ad money or other financial assistance from Democratic sources.)

I’ve admitted to my biases above, but I honestly just don’t get the argument for publication. The documents published by BuzzFeed contained assertions that were not labeled as proven by the research firm and which clearly needed verification which neither BuzzFeed nor any other media outlet was able to do. Smith used a variety of excuses to publish the documents, and the story BuzzFeed published to accompany the release said they contained “specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations.” So why release them?

When Chuck Todd accused Smith of publishing “fake news,” he suggested that BuzzFeed was just being a good Internet news organization and not letting the media and political elite keep information from the public. This would be easier to take more seriously if BuzzFeed is not so obviously a part of the media elite and doesn’t fraternize so comfortably with the political elite like most other news outlets. BuzzFeed was chasing clicks and that’s fine, but dressing this up as public service doesn’t cut it and especially given the political calculations involved.

BuzzFeed’s other excuse was that the documents were already being talked about and were referred to in the Intelligence Community’s very dubious report on Trump. But the documents appear to have been given to various agencies by political figures seeking to burn Trump, which BuzzFeed was only too happy to help out with. So it appears that Trump’s political enemies and media enemies were working together to get this information out before the inauguration.

I’d also note here one peculiar, and possibly unethical, thing about the New York Times’ behavior here. The Times, like everyone but BuzzFeed, didn’t publish the report but they wrote quite a bit about it. In an early story it said that they would not identify the research firm behind the leaked memos because of “a confidential source agreement with The New York Times.” Then it revealed the firm’s name in a later story and edited the earlier one to take out the line about their confidential source agreement.

So it looks like the Times violated a confidentiality agreement, which is pretty troubling, especially because it has started a big push to get anonymous tips. “Not to get overly dramatic but Deep Throat wasn’t outed, even though he would have made a really cool feature,” a friend remarked to me.

There are great stories to do about Trump. and there are a lot of serious accusations that need to be looked into, including his ties to Russia. But publishing the dossier makes it harder to get those sorts of stories into print and makes the public even more skeptical about the media.

Note: I’d strongly urge anyone following this story to friend long-time investigative journalist and researcher Craig Pyes on Facebook. He’s written some of the smartest commentary I’ve seen about this and far better than most of what’s run in the regular media. And he also speaks highly of Simpson.

Here is an excerpt:

When I first read the memos, I knew none of the backstory, and looked forward to the salacious content to bring this clown down, particularly any facts showing that the Trump people had prior knowledge of the Russian hacks — a Watergate-sized story, if true, even if the effects of the hacks on the election are being overblown. But with nearly 40 years of investigative experience, mostly on international issues, the wording of the memos quickly caused me to slam on the breaks, because they were worded in such a way as to make confirmation of the charges impossible. The rule involved in making professional judgments on these kinds of things is simple: you look for information that can be proven either true or false, and from that factual template, you then build out one incontrovertible fact at a time. These memoranda had no such facts, with the possible exception of Cohen’s trip to Prague, which the FBI told the WSJ was false.

Nicholas Kristof’s Burden: First class travel and $30,000 speakers fee makes reporting on poverty easier to endure

In theory, there’s nothing not to like about virtuous New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. He and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, “combine journalism and activism in their unique brand of reporting centered on human rights abuses and advocacy,” according to the duo’s speaking bureau. In practice, Kristof is a sanctimonious hack who trots the globe with the White Man’s Burden hanging heavily on his back.

Kristof and WuDunn co-authored Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. As we’ll see, Kristof and WuDunn have certainly turned oppression into personal opportunity — to the tune of about $50,000 for a joint speaking appearance during which they “give a voice to the voiceless.”

Kristof’s specialty is traveling to poor countries and finding a photogenic native here and there who is doing God’s work with the help of Western NGOs and Hollywood movie stars. For example, he helped make Somaly Mam, founder of an anti-sex trafficking group called Helping Women in Danger, into an international celebrity. The only problem is that Mam was a total fraud; she misappropriated vast sums of donor money and her personal tale of heroism — she claimed she had sold to a brothel and escaped after ten years – was about as fact-based as the Pippi Longstocking trilogy. (Still one of my favorites works of fiction.)

Kristof also has been an advocate for the apparel industry in countries like Cambodia. He calls apparel work an “escalator” out of poverty, though there’s little evidence to support that. Most Third World apparel workers get paid abysmally and work in terrible conditions at dead-end jobs. (Check out this report on conditions in Cambodia.)

This year Kristof wrote a lot about the presidential campaign, and he demonstrated that he’s just as clueless reporting on his own county as he is while wandering abroad. Like most elite journalists, Kristof was blindly loyal to Hillary Clinton. “What makes [her] tick has always been a 1960s-style idealism about making the world a better place,” he wrote in one column.

He also tended to write off most Trump supporters as racist cranks and missed the genuine economic hardship that propelled his campaign, maybe because Kristof doesn’t do a lot of reporting on poverty here at home. His class status may also have blinded him to the fact that for much of the country — and not just working class whites — the economy is in recession.

I’m not sure what Kristof gets paid at the Times — please email me at ken@washingtonbabylon.com if you do — but he’s clearly very well compensated. WuDunn, meanwhile, is a “senior banker focusing on growth companies” and a former private wealth adviser with Goldman Sachs. “She currently helps growth companies, including those operating in the fields of new media technology, entertainment, social media, healthcare, and the emerging markets, particularly China,” reads her bio.

As to their speaking gigs, I recently wrote here about how Washington Babylon had approached the speaking bureau of Vox editor and Clinton surrogate Ezra Klein, using the alias of Emma Stoffels. Young Stoffels was meant to be a campus activist recruiting speakers for a sizzling event next spring: “The 2017 Millennial Policy Summit: What Happens Now?”

It turned out that Klein, a principled opponent of a $15 minimum wage, wanted $30,750, plus hotel accommodations, meals and incidentals. As I noted, median household income in the United States was $56,500 last year so Klein apparently takes in more than half of what a typical family lives on for a full year.

How does the Kristof-WuDunn duo match up?

Well, first off, rest assured that Kristof “always keeps audiences on the edge of their seat in enthralling presentations that catapult many into action themselves. As a master story teller with an unmatched reputation and peerless perspective on the events that shape our world, listeners find themselves glued to their seats and captivated by moving, first-hand global stories until, of course, the inevitable, emotive standing ovation at every engagement’s end.”

(Personally, I find this confusing. First audience members are catapulted, then they are glued to their seats, yet they somehow, having endured so much already, rise to give a standing ovation?)

In any case, Emma Stoffels also inquired about the possibility of Kristof and WuDunn addressing the Millennials conference. Kristof’s fee was $30,000 and WuDunn’s was $20,000 — and both also demand first class travel expenses — for a combined $50,000.

Who knew giving a voice to the voiceless could be so lucrative?

What was 2016 Campaign’s Single Worst Article? A request for submissions

I had a story yesterday at the New York Observer titled “This Election Has Disgraced the Entire Profession of Journalism,” which compiled some of the most embarrassing moments of campaign reporting revealed by the Podesta Leaks. There was a lot of competition but I think the absolute worst was Politico‘s Glenn Thrush sending Podesta an email saying, “I have become a hack I will send u the whole section that pertains to u. Please don’t share or tell anyone I did this Tell me if I fucked up anything.”

Now Washington Babylon is looking to compile a Top Five list of the campaign’s worst stories and encourages readers to send submissions. To qualify, a story has to be completely misleading or dishonest  — a Kurt Eichenwald specialty — or just an especially cringeworthy piece of partisan hackery.

Into that latter category falls just about everything Clinton Surrogate Ezra Klein of Vox has written on behalf of the Hillary’s campaign in 2016. But I’m pretty sure this recent story — “Tim Kaine’s feminism: The way Tim Kaine wants to model masculinity is as far from Trump as you can imagine” — finds Klein at his personal rock bottom. The whole article sounds like an essay a college freshmen would read aloud in a desperate effort to get laid.

Here’s the lede:

David Axelrod’s podcast conversation with Tim Kaine is worth listening to in full, but the part that struck me was Kaine’s riff on what it would mean to be the first man to serve as vice president to a woman president. Kaine argues that that, too, is a historic and important first, and he feels the weight of being an example to others…I remember thinking, “Wow, I’m going to have the chance now to not be the top of the ticket. I’m going to be a strong man supporting the first strong woman to be president of the United States.” And as important as it is to normalize that a woman can be president, it’s also important to normalize that strong men can support a woman as president.

This is an investigative piece for Klein. Not only does he listen to a whole podcast by Axelrod but he also reads a New Yorker story and quotes from it lavishly and then comes up with a list of contrasts between Trump and Kaine. For example, “Trump is unusually non-religious for a major American politician and has a notably louche personal life.”

Louche? Klein sounds like a moralizing, priggish retiree in Nebraska. Meanwhile, of course, he totally overlooks Kaine’s very dubious record on women’s rights. Even the pro-Clinton outlet Slate ran a critical story on Kaine saying that his choice “Is Testing Feminists’ Loyalty.” [Usual disclosure: Yes, Trump’s views on women are vile. Happy to consider stories promoting him as a feminist stalwart.]

Anyway, we need your submissions by Monday morning and will announce the winner on Election Day.

What was 2016 Campaign's Single Worst Article? A request for submissions

I had a story yesterday at the New York Observer titled “This Election Has Disgraced the Entire Profession of Journalism,” which compiled some of the most embarrassing moments of campaign reporting revealed by the Podesta Leaks. There was a lot of competition but I think the absolute worst was Politico‘s Glenn Thrush sending Podesta an email saying, “I have become a hack I will send u the whole section that pertains to u. Please don’t share or tell anyone I did this Tell me if I fucked up anything.”

Now Washington Babylon is looking to compile a Top Five list of the campaign’s worst stories and encourages readers to send submissions. To qualify, a story has to be completely misleading or dishonest  — a Kurt Eichenwald specialty — or just an especially cringeworthy piece of partisan hackery.

Into that latter category falls just about everything Clinton Surrogate Ezra Klein of Vox has written on behalf of the Hillary’s campaign in 2016. But I’m pretty sure this recent story — “Tim Kaine’s feminism: The way Tim Kaine wants to model masculinity is as far from Trump as you can imagine” — finds Klein at his personal rock bottom. The whole article sounds like an essay a college freshmen would read aloud in a desperate effort to get laid.

Here’s the lede:

David Axelrod’s podcast conversation with Tim Kaine is worth listening to in full, but the part that struck me was Kaine’s riff on what it would mean to be the first man to serve as vice president to a woman president. Kaine argues that that, too, is a historic and important first, and he feels the weight of being an example to others…I remember thinking, “Wow, I’m going to have the chance now to not be the top of the ticket. I’m going to be a strong man supporting the first strong woman to be president of the United States.” And as important as it is to normalize that a woman can be president, it’s also important to normalize that strong men can support a woman as president.

This is an investigative piece for Klein. Not only does he listen to a whole podcast by Axelrod but he also reads a New Yorker story and quotes from it lavishly and then comes up with a list of contrasts between Trump and Kaine. For example, “Trump is unusually non-religious for a major American politician and has a notably louche personal life.”

Louche? Klein sounds like a moralizing, priggish retiree in Nebraska. Meanwhile, of course, he totally overlooks Kaine’s very dubious record on women’s rights. Even the pro-Clinton outlet Slate ran a critical story on Kaine saying that his choice “Is Testing Feminists’ Loyalty.” [Usual disclosure: Yes, Trump’s views on women are vile. Happy to consider stories promoting him as a feminist stalwart.]

Anyway, we need your submissions by Monday morning and will announce the winner on Election Day.

2016 Campaign’s Biggest Loser: Journalism

I have a story today in the New York Observer about the wretched state of political journalism, which nowadays, as the Podesta emails have shown, has been mostly reduced to surrogacy on behalf of the Clinton campaign.

Every time I write anything for the Observer someone rushes to point out that it’s a pro-Trump newspaper. Yes, it is, but at least openly so and hence there is truth in advertising. And I’ve never had any problem writing things critical about Trump in the Observer, for example, from today’s story:

We have two unbelievably shitty candidates, neither of whom is fit to lead the country. Donald Trump is a reckless narcissist who, as his debate performances indicated, cannot string together more than two sentences, let alone articulate a coherent vision for the country’s future. His remarks about women, Latinos and African-Americans are reprehensible and, whether he believes his own statements or is merely trying to stir up anger for his electoral benefit, have emboldened people who hold retrograde and genuinely scary views.

The problem with much of the media is that there’s a pretense of impartiality, that the Podesta emails have mercilessly exposed as fraudulent. Among the various examples I cite in the story is Politico reporter Glenn Thrush apologizing to Podesta for writing a story draft that he worried was too critical. “I have become a hack I will send u the whole section that pertains to u,” he wrote. “Please don’t share or tell anyone I did this Tell me if I fucked up anything.” On bended knee would have been more dignified.

I also noted a column by the New York Times‘ Jim Rutenberg, who made clear that he and other reporters viewed “a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous,” which required them to report on him with a particularly critical point of view. This, he said, would make journalists “move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional,” which would be “uncomfortable and uncharted territory.”

There are so many things wrong with all this that it’s hard to know where to start. How is it that the media has derogated to itself the right to decide what candidates deserve special scrutiny and what policies are acceptable? In a democracy, that is supposed to be the voters’ job.

And worst of all is Rutenberg’s statement about the role of journalists. “All governments are run by liars and nothing they say should be believed,” I.F. Stone once wrote. “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations,” said George Orwell. For those two self-evident reasons, being “oppositional” is the only place political journalists should ever be, no matter who is in power or who is campaigning.

Read the whole story here.

2016 Campaign's Biggest Loser: Journalism

I have a story today in the New York Observer about the wretched state of political journalism, which nowadays, as the Podesta emails have shown, has been mostly reduced to surrogacy on behalf of the Clinton campaign.

Every time I write anything for the Observer someone rushes to point out that it’s a pro-Trump newspaper. Yes, it is, but at least openly so and hence there is truth in advertising. And I’ve never had any problem writing things critical about Trump in the Observer, for example, from today’s story:

We have two unbelievably shitty candidates, neither of whom is fit to lead the country. Donald Trump is a reckless narcissist who, as his debate performances indicated, cannot string together more than two sentences, let alone articulate a coherent vision for the country’s future. His remarks about women, Latinos and African-Americans are reprehensible and, whether he believes his own statements or is merely trying to stir up anger for his electoral benefit, have emboldened people who hold retrograde and genuinely scary views.

The problem with much of the media is that there’s a pretense of impartiality, that the Podesta emails have mercilessly exposed as fraudulent. Among the various examples I cite in the story is Politico reporter Glenn Thrush apologizing to Podesta for writing a story draft that he worried was too critical. “I have become a hack I will send u the whole section that pertains to u,” he wrote. “Please don’t share or tell anyone I did this Tell me if I fucked up anything.” On bended knee would have been more dignified.

I also noted a column by the New York Times‘ Jim Rutenberg, who made clear that he and other reporters viewed “a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous,” which required them to report on him with a particularly critical point of view. This, he said, would make journalists “move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional,” which would be “uncomfortable and uncharted territory.”

There are so many things wrong with all this that it’s hard to know where to start. How is it that the media has derogated to itself the right to decide what candidates deserve special scrutiny and what policies are acceptable? In a democracy, that is supposed to be the voters’ job.

And worst of all is Rutenberg’s statement about the role of journalists. “All governments are run by liars and nothing they say should be believed,” I.F. Stone once wrote. “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations,” said George Orwell. For those two self-evident reasons, being “oppositional” is the only place political journalists should ever be, no matter who is in power or who is campaigning.

Read the whole story here.

Release the Transcripts! “Journalist”/Clinton surrogate Ezra Klein nets $30,750 for a single speech

For months I’ve tried to write about Ezra Klein, the founder of Vox, the nest of nerdy, privileged kids who think that politics and government is super neat. I’ve had a hard time publishing anything because Klein, a leading Hillary Clinton journalism surrogate, is at this point well beyond parody.

How can you possibly satire a dweeby hipster wannabe who wears a black T-shirt for a video segment that may as well have been a Hillary campaign ad? (Make sure to read viewer’s comments; they were not impressed.) Or who does a lengthy story on Hillary, featuring a whiffle ball interview with her, in which the stated goal is to answer a question that poor Ezra has been struggling with for the past eight years: “Why is the Hillary Clinton described to me by her staff, her colleagues, and even her foes so different from the one I see on the campaign trail?”

The American people don’t like Hillary, to Klein’s befuddlement, but her friends and colleagues — “people I admire, people who understand Washington in ways I never will” — think she’s brilliant, funny and just generally wonderful.

Klein has emerged as the Clinton campaign’s most reliable mouthpiece, as seen in a Podesta email released earlier this week. In the March 23, 2015 email, Clintonistas were wondering which journalist could most reliably be called upon to push out the campaign narrative and keep other reporters in line.

“Lloyd Grove used to be the person who would hold journalist [sic] accountable – who is that now and is there an opportunity for that in real time today?” Cheryl Mills, one of Hillary’s closest aides, asked.

For campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri, a name immediately sprang to mind.  “I think that person, the degree to which they exist, is Ezra Klein,” she wrote. “And we can do it with him today.”

I’m still planning to write more about Klein in Washington Babylon’s Hack List 2016, to be published in December, but today I want to reveal what I found out about Klein’s speaking fees, and how his privileged background and high income might shape his campaign coverage and general reporting.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, there is a media elite, bound together by class and geography, that it is utterly clueless about its own biases and filters. Many journalists covering the presidential campaign are such pampered brats they don’t even recognize that for most Americans, the economy is in recession and people are terrified. They live in a bubble and have no clue what is happening outside of their own circle of smug, overpaid, soulless fellow hacks.

Klein is one of the more prominent members of this bratty group and is an especially troubling one because, bizarrely, he’s seen as a liberal or progressive. Conservative media sometimes even call him a “leftist,” which is a taint Klein has long tried to expunge. It stems from his days at The American Prospect, before he became determined to claw his way upward in journalism by heading towards the soulless center and not voicing any position that might be deemed remotely controversial. After leaving the Prospect he created “Wonk Blog” at the Washington Post and then founded Vox in 2014.

Ezra has now reached the ripe old age of 32 and he’s clearly making piles of dough.  I’m not sure what he’s raking in at Vox, which is lavishly funded by venture capitalists and corporations like NBCUniversal, but he appears to be cleaning up on the speaker’s circuit — or journalistic buckraking, as the practice used to be known.

Using the alias of Emma Stoffels, Washington Babylon recently reached out to Klein’s speaking bureau, where his bio promises that he will use his “razor-sharp focus and wit” to give audiences “an unvarnished look at the intersection of today’s domestic and economic policy-making coupled with a political system that has major impacts from Wall Street to Main Street and around the world.”

His page says he can talk on about a score of topics, including Business Growth/Strategy/Trends, Corporate Culture, Creativity, Innovation, Jewish Interests, the Middle East and Social Media/New Media. It features glowing testimonials from Fordham University College Democrats and the California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems.

Emma Stoffels, who was supposed to be with a University of Texas at Austin group called the Coalition of Millennials in Politics, said that she wanted Klein to be a guest speaker at an event — titled to be as bland and boring as possible — next spring: The 2017 Millennial Policy Summit: What Happens Now? “There will be panels on a range of topics, ranging from health care to climate change to foreign policy,” she added.

We assumed that a mediocre hack like Klein would go for somewhere between $7,500 and $15,000 a pop but when we selected that budget range we got a note back from one of his handlers: “Thank you for your inquiry and your interest in Ezra Klein. I’m afraid that his speaking fee does fall outside of the budget range you indicated you have available….As an additional thought, I suggest you reach out to your local universities, libraries or media networks to inquire about talent.  They are great resources for finding expert speakers, authors or local anchor personalities for minimal to no costs.”

This was disappointing, so Emma wrote back that the Millennial group might be able  to increase its budget to nab Klein. “The role of journalism in American politics is undeniable,” she wrote. “Klein has managed to find a unique edge…We could plan to allocate $20,000-25,000 for him to join the forum.”

Tragically, even that amount of money wouldn’t necessarily be enough to lure Ezra so Emma was passed along to another handler at the speakers’ bureau. This person said that Ezra’s fee would be $30,750, plus hotel accommodations, meals and incidentals. (Airfare and car service were generously included in the fee). “That said, he really does enjoy college programs and I think he would consider an invitation at $25,000,” this person wrote. “Also, if Ezra’s fee is prohibitive – I’m happy to help with other journalist available at a slightly lower price point.”

Think about these numbers for a second. Median household income in the United States — which peaked in the late-1990s — was $56,500 last year. So with a single university speaking gig, Klein apparently takes in more than half of what a typical family lives on for a full year. (One imagines he charges more for groups wanting his thought on business strategies and trends. I asked Klein for comment via his Twitter page and sent him my email, but didn’t hear back from him.)

Meanwhile, Klein thinks a $15 minimum wage is a terrible idea and so does Vox, in an article that Paste said took “pro-corporate fear-mongering mixed with a severe allergy to analytical rigor…to a new, unprecedented level.” This, ironically, was a rare time that Vox criticized its favorite candidate, for endorsing a $15 minimum wage.”

Klein and Vox’s economic prescriptions in general come straight out the playbook of the most pro-corporate wing of the Democratic Party. Think raising taxes on the rich to reduce inequality is a good idea? Think again. And again.

Back during the Watergate era, the Post’s then executive editor, Ben Bradlee, said that reporters had become more and more conservative as they got paid better. It’s hard to be conservative on $75 a week, but seventy-five grand, you begin to think of the kids and the bank account and the IRA and roll it over and all this stuff,” he wrote.

Nowadays most reporters don’t make a lot of money — and of course huge numbers have been fired during the past twenty years — but those at the top drive a lot of the journalism conversation. That’s because few espouse economic views that would trouble a typical billionaire or Fortune 500 CEO.

Ezra is a perfect example of this phenomenon. He was always a privileged elitist but back during his days at the Prospect, before he made so much money, Klein had more interesting views. Writing about messianic web enthusiasts he said:

Their intense enthusiasm for the web’s democratic properties is really, by virtue of it being a computer-accessible medium that offers the greatest rewards to the earliest adopters, an intense enthusiasm for further channels through which educated white guys can get rich, grow famous, and enhance their speaking fees. They’re very interested in the expansion of opportunity for guys like them. Not so much in the crushingly hopeless existences of others.

Ezra, you’ve come a long way.

Release the Transcripts! "Journalist"/Clinton surrogate Ezra Klein nets $30,750 for a single speech

For months I’ve tried to write about Ezra Klein, the founder of Vox, the nest of nerdy, privileged kids who think that politics and government is super neat. I’ve had a hard time publishing anything because Klein, a leading Hillary Clinton journalism surrogate, is at this point well beyond parody.

How can you possibly satire a dweeby hipster wannabe who wears a black T-shirt for a video segment that may as well have been a Hillary campaign ad? (Make sure to read viewer’s comments; they were not impressed.) Or who does a lengthy story on Hillary, featuring a whiffle ball interview with her, in which the stated goal is to answer a question that poor Ezra has been struggling with for the past eight years: “Why is the Hillary Clinton described to me by her staff, her colleagues, and even her foes so different from the one I see on the campaign trail?”

The American people don’t like Hillary, to Klein’s befuddlement, but her friends and colleagues — “people I admire, people who understand Washington in ways I never will” — think she’s brilliant, funny and just generally wonderful.

Klein has emerged as the Clinton campaign’s most reliable mouthpiece, as seen in a Podesta email released earlier this week. In the March 23, 2015 email, Clintonistas were wondering which journalist could most reliably be called upon to push out the campaign narrative and keep other reporters in line.

“Lloyd Grove used to be the person who would hold journalist [sic] accountable – who is that now and is there an opportunity for that in real time today?” Cheryl Mills, one of Hillary’s closest aides, asked.

For campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri, a name immediately sprang to mind.  “I think that person, the degree to which they exist, is Ezra Klein,” she wrote. “And we can do it with him today.”

I’m still planning to write more about Klein in Washington Babylon’s Hack List 2016, to be published in December, but today I want to reveal what I found out about Klein’s speaking fees, and how his privileged background and high income might shape his campaign coverage and general reporting.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, there is a media elite, bound together by class and geography, that it is utterly clueless about its own biases and filters. Many journalists covering the presidential campaign are such pampered brats they don’t even recognize that for most Americans, the economy is in recession and people are terrified. They live in a bubble and have no clue what is happening outside of their own circle of smug, overpaid, soulless fellow hacks.

Klein is one of the more prominent members of this bratty group and is an especially troubling one because, bizarrely, he’s seen as a liberal or progressive. Conservative media sometimes even call him a “leftist,” which is a taint Klein has long tried to expunge. It stems from his days at The American Prospect, before he became determined to claw his way upward in journalism by heading towards the soulless center and not voicing any position that might be deemed remotely controversial. After leaving the Prospect he created “Wonk Blog” at the Washington Post and then founded Vox in 2014.

Ezra has now reached the ripe old age of 32 and he’s clearly making piles of dough.  I’m not sure what he’s raking in at Vox, which is lavishly funded by venture capitalists and corporations like NBCUniversal, but he appears to be cleaning up on the speaker’s circuit — or journalistic buckraking, as the practice used to be known.

Using the alias of Emma Stoffels, Washington Babylon recently reached out to Klein’s speaking bureau, where his bio promises that he will use his “razor-sharp focus and wit” to give audiences “an unvarnished look at the intersection of today’s domestic and economic policy-making coupled with a political system that has major impacts from Wall Street to Main Street and around the world.”

His page says he can talk on about a score of topics, including Business Growth/Strategy/Trends, Corporate Culture, Creativity, Innovation, Jewish Interests, the Middle East and Social Media/New Media. It features glowing testimonials from Fordham University College Democrats and the California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems.

Emma Stoffels, who was supposed to be with a University of Texas at Austin group called the Coalition of Millennials in Politics, said that she wanted Klein to be a guest speaker at an event — titled to be as bland and boring as possible — next spring: The 2017 Millennial Policy Summit: What Happens Now? “There will be panels on a range of topics, ranging from health care to climate change to foreign policy,” she added.

We assumed that a mediocre hack like Klein would go for somewhere between $7,500 and $15,000 a pop but when we selected that budget range we got a note back from one of his handlers: “Thank you for your inquiry and your interest in Ezra Klein. I’m afraid that his speaking fee does fall outside of the budget range you indicated you have available….As an additional thought, I suggest you reach out to your local universities, libraries or media networks to inquire about talent.  They are great resources for finding expert speakers, authors or local anchor personalities for minimal to no costs.”

This was disappointing, so Emma wrote back that the Millennial group might be able  to increase its budget to nab Klein. “The role of journalism in American politics is undeniable,” she wrote. “Klein has managed to find a unique edge…We could plan to allocate $20,000-25,000 for him to join the forum.”

Tragically, even that amount of money wouldn’t necessarily be enough to lure Ezra so Emma was passed along to another handler at the speakers’ bureau. This person said that Ezra’s fee would be $30,750, plus hotel accommodations, meals and incidentals. (Airfare and car service were generously included in the fee). “That said, he really does enjoy college programs and I think he would consider an invitation at $25,000,” this person wrote. “Also, if Ezra’s fee is prohibitive – I’m happy to help with other journalist available at a slightly lower price point.”

Think about these numbers for a second. Median household income in the United States — which peaked in the late-1990s — was $56,500 last year. So with a single university speaking gig, Klein apparently takes in more than half of what a typical family lives on for a full year. (One imagines he charges more for groups wanting his thought on business strategies and trends. I asked Klein for comment via his Twitter page and sent him my email, but didn’t hear back from him.)

Meanwhile, Klein thinks a $15 minimum wage is a terrible idea and so does Vox, in an article that Paste said took “pro-corporate fear-mongering mixed with a severe allergy to analytical rigor…to a new, unprecedented level.” This, ironically, was a rare time that Vox criticized its favorite candidate, for endorsing a $15 minimum wage.”

Klein and Vox’s economic prescriptions in general come straight out the playbook of the most pro-corporate wing of the Democratic Party. Think raising taxes on the rich to reduce inequality is a good idea? Think again. And again.

Back during the Watergate era, the Post’s then executive editor, Ben Bradlee, said that reporters had become more and more conservative as they got paid better. It’s hard to be conservative on $75 a week, but seventy-five grand, you begin to think of the kids and the bank account and the IRA and roll it over and all this stuff,” he wrote.

Nowadays most reporters don’t make a lot of money — and of course huge numbers have been fired during the past twenty years — but those at the top drive a lot of the journalism conversation. That’s because few espouse economic views that would trouble a typical billionaire or Fortune 500 CEO.

Ezra is a perfect example of this phenomenon. He was always a privileged elitist but back during his days at the Prospect, before he made so much money, Klein had more interesting views. Writing about messianic web enthusiasts he said:

Their intense enthusiasm for the web’s democratic properties is really, by virtue of it being a computer-accessible medium that offers the greatest rewards to the earliest adopters, an intense enthusiasm for further channels through which educated white guys can get rich, grow famous, and enhance their speaking fees. They’re very interested in the expansion of opportunity for guys like them. Not so much in the crushingly hopeless existences of others.

Ezra, you’ve come a long way.

Kurt Eichenwald: Campaign’s worst hack (so far)

I’ve followed presidential campaigns for years and it’s never been an uplifting experience, but this year has marked a genuine low for the media. The basic problem is that the lion’ share of journalists covering the campaign are actively rooting for Hillary and are working hand in glove with her campaign to attack Trump while overlooking the Democrat’s own obvious shortcomings.

The media may have facilitated Trump’s rise back when he was running in the GOP primaries with its uncritical, circus like coverage that ended up elevating him above the 17 mental midgets he was running against.  But anyone who thinks that any significant number of journalists are in the tank for him now is clearly delusional.

Once the race narrowed to Trump v. Hillary, any pretense of fairness evaporated. There’s nothing discreet about the approach. Back in early August, when the race was close, Jim Gutenberg of the New York Times issued a declaration of war on the media’s behalf, saying, with breathtaking sanctimony, that Trump’s positions were so extreme that he was “Testing the Norms of Objectivity in Journalism.” Hence, journalists had no choice but to go after him.

Since then, standards have been systematically lowered as the media has effectively become an arm of the Clinton campaign. Look, there’s plenty of grounds to attack Trump — sadly, it’s necessary to repeat that constantly in an effort to minimize attacks from Hillary trolls —  but journalists are unelected: their job is to vet and screen the candidates’ ideas and programs, not to decide for the public which ideas and which candidates are acceptable.

I’ve been pitched anti-Trump stories for months by private intelligence firms working directly for Hillary or for clients — usually from the financial sector — who desperately want her to win. These firms aren’t doing anything wrong — they are paid to craft anti-Trump narratives and get their memos into the hands of sympathetic reporters — but journalists have an obligation to re-report and factcheck these memos before rushing them into print. As far as I can tell, that sort of due diligence has been tossed out the window in the current anti-Trump frenzy.

I’ve passed on multiple anti-Trump stories because the facts behind them just didn’t hold up. They weren’t necessarily flat out wrong, but the facts had been blown wildly out of proportion. Weeks later I’d see the narratives from these memos appear nearly verbatim in stories by major outlets, with the word “bombshell” or “exclusive” attached to them.

At this point, I would wager that virtually none of the campaign “scoops” are originating in original reporting, but instead are being crafted in the bowels of opposition research laboratories, primarily Hillary’s. (She’s got a much better funded and active opposition research arm, and there just aren’t that many pro-Trump journalists at major outlets to feed the products to.)

The idea that Russian intelligence hacked the DNC has never been proven but by now it is reported as an accepted fact, especially after U.S. intelligence agencies came out and vouched for it. I thought journalists were supposed to be skeptical of government, especially intelligence and law enforcement agencies, but that’s not the case now, when the media is on a war-like footing. It’s reminiscent of when Colin Powell went to the UN in the run up to the Iraq War and virtually the entire press corps immediately said he had “proved” Iraq was in the WMD business.

Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign has breezily changed the narrative about the leaked documents from the DNC away from the contents of the documents to the unproven fact that Russia stole them. Look, Russia didn’t write the leaked emails nor did it have anything to do with the DNC actively working to undermine Bernie’s campaign. But these stories are ignored or dismissed, while Hillary’s enablers divert attention from the damaging revelations by pointing to a John Podesta email that discusses his recipe for risotto, as if that is typical of the trove of documents that were released.

Trump’s tax returns were clearly leaked for political purposes and yet the story — based on three pages sent anonymously to the New York Times by someone with a particular agenda — was treated as a remarkable scoop and feat of investigative journalism. Yet the Times didn’t “obtain” those documents, they were mailed to the newspaper.

Among countless examples of shoddy journalism during the campaign, Kurt Eichenwald of Newsweek has clearly stood out for his recycling of anti-Trump garbage.

Check out this Vanity Fair story from last month, “THE 5 MOST EXPLOSIVE REVELATIONS FROM NEWSWEEK’S BOMBSHELL TRUMP REPORT,” and someone please explain to me why we should be taking any of these allegations seriously? Yet this was lauded as Pulitzer Prize winning reportage even though his conclusions are stretched well beyond the breaking point. Here’s Exhibit A:

In April, Trump argued that South Korea and Japan should acquire their own nuclear weapons, taking some of the pressure off the United States to defend them. That policy, should it go into effect, would benefit the Trump Organization, Newsweek reports. In the 1990s, the Trump Organization entered into a business deal with Daewoo Engineering and Construction, wherein it paid for the right to use the Trump name for six condominium properties in Seoul and two other cities, Newsweek reports. But the South Korean firm also has an active role in nuclear fuel enrichment and energy generation in the country, and would likely benefit from a renewed nuclear-weapons program. Daewoo Engineering and Construction’s parent company, the Daewoo Group, later fell into bankruptcy, prompting revisions of its contract with the Trump Organization, but the two entities remain tied.

Seriously, Trump’s proposal here can be evaluated, but the idea that he is advocating for South Korea to obtain nukes in order to make money for the Trump Organization is laughable on its face.

And indulge me while I offer the second biggest “explosive” “bombshell” from Eichenwald’s story. I’ve read this three times and I still have no idea of what’s he’s trying to say:

The Trump Organization has been involved in a handful of development deals in India, leading to close ties with several political parties and powerful individuals in the country, Newsweek reports. One such connection is allegedly to Madhukar Tulsi, the head of real-estate company Ireo, who in 2010 was investigated for suspected ties to Sudhanshu Mittal. Mittal, then the leader of the country’s second-largest political party, was suspected of being involved in a scheme to funnel money earned from India’s hosting the 2010 Commonwealth Games—a sort of mini-Olympics for the former British Empire—through tax havens and into Ireo development projects, Newsweek reports.

Charges were not brought in the case against either Tulsi or Mittal (the latter denied any involvement in the alleged Commonwealth Games scandal), but the investigation highlights how a President Trump could easily find himself entangled in foreign politics. The Trump Organization reportedly has several other major real-estate projects planned in India; at least one, a licensing deal with Panchshil Realty to build two 22-story towers in Pune, has run into trouble with local authorities over a land dispute. A Trump administration could easily make the ongoing investigation go away.

Read that carefully. Trump reportedly has a licensing deal in India with a guy who was once investigated and apparently cleared of wrongdoing, but the investigation “highlights how a President Trump could easily find himself entangled in foreign politics.” Eichenwald might want to have a look at the Clinton Foundation one of these days if we he wants to see how a potential future president has messy overseas entanglements.

Also, did anyone stop at the last line about Trump having the power to make the “ongoing investigation” — of what is not clear — go away? How? I didn’t realize that the president of the United States had such control over India, which apparently is a vassal state.

Since this article was published, Eichenwald has written a number of other thin stories that have landed him on cable news and gotten uncritical pickup from mainstream and liberal outlets. His piece about Trump’s two decade old $68,000 non-investment in Cuba — which clearly originated with a memo from one of Hillary’s op research outlets — was a ripe piece of red-baiting that would have been dismissed by MSNBC (which breathlessly covered it for 24 hours) had Hillary Clinton been the villain.

Yesterday, Eichenwald was back with a story claiming that Trump had received propaganda straight from Russian intelligence and rushed it out during one of his campaign appearances. There was zero evidence to back up his charge — you actually have to read this story to believe it — but the fact that Trump’s tale involved a mixup of Eichenwald and Sidney Blumenthal led Eichenwald to really work himself into a lather. “No, Mr. Putin, I’m not Sidney Blumenthal,” he wrote in closing the story. “And now that you have been exposed once again, get the hell out of our election.”

Hillary Clintons’ election is now a foregone conclusion, and media coverage of the campaign has helped her immensely. (So, too, has the fact that Trump is clearly unfit to hold office, but the menace she poses to the country has, in my view, been horribly underrated.)

For months, journalists have used Trump’s shortcomings to justify their bias. In a month, Hillary will be president; the question is whether the media will then start displaying some modicum of skepticism about her new administration and restore some integrity to journalism. Personally I doubt it. For most of this campaign many in the DC press corps appear to have been auditioning to be the next Josh Earnest and there’s little reason to hope that will change following Hillary’s upcoming coronation. 

The Lassie Chronicles: In new book on Bill Clinton, Joe Conason finds his inner lapdog

Neither irony nor subtlety figure heavily in Joe Conason’s newly released Man of the World: The Further Endeavors of Bill Clinton. In its opening pages Conason describes his hero, on his very first day out of office, defending his pardon of the felonious sanctions-buster Marc Rich before a pack of admiring journalists.

“The word ‘pardon’ is somehow almost a misnomer,” Clinton intones. “You’re saying they paid, they paid in full.” The former president was suggesting, Conason writes, that “we ought to be more open-minded” about individuals who have “discharged their debt to society.”

How, one might wonder, does Clinton square his lofty statements with his performance in the Oval Office? It was he, after all, who in 1996 championed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act — more commonly known as “Welfare Reform” —  which subjected anyone convicted of a felony drug offense to a lifetime ban on receiving public assistance.

But with Rich, who evaded taxes to the tune of $48 million and illegally traded with South Africa under apartheid rule, among other minor offenses, all should be forgiven. This might seem to be a conflict but the ever faithful Conason — whose slavish devotion to his master puts Lassie to shame — has a tidy answer. The pardon was a favor to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, to whom Rich was an unofficial aide. And to make this friendly transaction between the political elite go down smoother, the author revives the myth that Barak was prepared to sacrifice “his own political career on the altar of peace” by offering the Palestinians historic concessions at the Camp David Summit in 2000.

Man of the World is cratered with such factual lapses — but then to note such matters would require an actual glance at history and that’s well beyond Conason’s ambition. That this is biography as stagecraft is clear from the outset.

Conason so breathlessly chronicles Clinton as the leader of a global philanthropic powerhouse dedicated to providing AIDS treatment, eradicating poverty, forging gender equality, and a host of other noble pursuits, that he never pauses to ask if the man’s policies as president and pivotal role in remaking the Democratic Party in the Republican image might have significantly contributed to the very problems that Clinton now is allegedly working tirelessly to solve.

Clinton’s draconian “welfare reform” is scarcely mentioned, and when it is — once — it’s to note obliquely that a “woman who left welfare for work” was one of the “ordinary Americans” to attend the 2004 opening of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock. The ceremony, groovy Conason writes, featured Clinton “pals” Bono and The Edge “rocking out under a falling sky”—as if the poor woman hadn’t been through enough.

Conason doesn’t wonder how the same man who sprinkles philanthropic pixie dust from India to Haiti could have wielded the knife that mercilessly hacked away as the American safety net. Such contradictions go entirely unnoticed in this lifeless, leaden hagiography of Clinton as a beleaguered but benevolent titan who rains largesse and good will on the downtrodden.

When Conason is forced to confront Clinton’s awful presidential legacy he swallows and regurgitates the former president’s risible excuses for why he is not to blame for anything. The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act occurred on his watch only because he listened to the wrong advisers. When he ushered in his Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, a key driver of the shameful mass incarceration of people of color, he did so only after being moved by the plight of African-Americans who pleaded with him to address rampant crime in their communities. Hey, if their kids went to jail for smoking weed it’s their fault for asking Bill for help. The man suffers from an excess of empathy. 

At its most hagiographic, Man of the World offers us a portrait of Clinton as a species of Dostoyevskian idiot, a man of such impeccable moral fiber that he is baffled by the dearth of generosity and trust in others. He is shocked when his former allies distance themselves from him because of the Marc Rich scandal.

Conason dismisses suspicions that Clinton Foundation donors received favors from Hillary’s State Department. “Like her husband, [Hillary] felt such confidence in her own probity that she was unable to imagine how others might view her acceptance of enormous sums of money from special interests.” Yeah, who could have imagined that taking $250,000 — five times more than median U.S. household income — from Goldman Sachs for a short speech might not look good?

Conason heaps praise on the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), the program through which the global plutocracy pledge millions to support causes promoted by the Foundation. It revolves around a yearly event, which, as Conason admiringly describes it, sounds like an elite  big-tent revival where billionaires simultaneously salve their conscience and pump their egos.

Corporate giants like Richard Branson and Rupert Murdoch and celebrities like Barbara Streisand and Brad Pitt promise to fork over huge chunks of money after hearing speeches delivered from both Republicans and Democrats that make “Clinton beam with bipartisan pride.” What awestruck Conason reveals, completely unintentionally, is the superficial differences among our elites. The CEOs of Dow Chemical and Coca-Cola mingle with Angelina Jolie and Bono; Condoleeza Rice hobnobs with Gerry Adams; Mick Jagger bumps into Shimon Peres. It may look like vacation but in fact all of these wonderful people attend the CGI for only one reason: to collectively strive to tamp down the tragic effects of the global hegemony that has hoisted them into the economic stratosphere.

It’s awkward that the pedophile Jeffrey Epstein provided seed funding for the CGI, but Conason bravely confronts this trifling embarrassment by relegating to a parenthesis that  Bill’s one time close friend was convicted of sex crimes against minors. He doesn’t mention that Epstein’s Boeing 747, which Bill frequently traveled on, including for a weeklong trip around Africa, was dubbed the “Lolita Express.”

Conason is equally quick to dismiss the issue of foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation. He derides fellow MSNBC hack Joe Scarborough for falsely alleging that Algeria’s 2010 donation was the price for being taken off the terror watch list. Great, but the contribution came at a time that Algeria was heavily lobbying the State Department to ease up criticism of the country’s abysmal human rights record.

“A 2010 State Department report on human rights in Algeria noted that ‘principal human rights problems included restrictions on freedom of assembly and association’ and cited reports of arbitrary killings, widespread corruption and a lack of transparency,” the Washington Post wrote. “Additionally, the report, issued in early 2011, discussed restrictions on labor and women’s rights.” So what happened after Algeria made the contribution? State approved a 70 percent increase in military exports to the country and in 2012 Hillary met with its leader.

Conason is entirely silent about Hillary’s 2011’s approval of the sale of billions of dollars worth of Boeing fighter jets to Saudi Arabia. Sure, the Saudis and Boeing are major donors to the Clinton Foundation, but if you think Joe might be curious about that, you don’t know Joe.

It would be easy to consign this nearly 500-page love letter to the realm of hagiography and propaganda if there wasn’t something more insidious at work here. Conason’s evangelistic chronicle of Clinton’s philanthropy implicitly makes the case for noblesse oblige neoliberalism and the idea that the market, properly tinkered with by the charismatic, can deliver us from misery.

The animating lie of the Clinton model of philanthropy is that we can cure the world’s ills without making systemic change, that an economic structure that relies on exploitation can drive global health and happiness if those at its peak can be charmed into diverting a small share of their riches to the less fortunate. In other words, the world suffers from a lack of goodwill, inertia, and poor management—not a fundamentally unjust system that creates vast inequality.

Clinton has always been a master of image and a shrewd political operator who can calculate down to the millisecond when to dab at his eye to grab hold of the public heartstrings. For decades he has parlayed political acumen into boundless self-advancement and if there’s one thing that Man of the World shows us, he hasn’t done it alone.