Whitey Bulger And The FBI: What Did Robert Mueller Know And When Did He Know It?

[Part 1 of this story ran on December 5. To read it click here.]

In May of 2011, days after Osama bin Laden was captured in Pakistan, that country’s Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, publicly insisted that his government had had no idea about where the terrorist leader had been hiding. When this claim was greeted with skepticism in certain quarters in America, Haqqani countered that his story was every bit as plausible as  the FBI’s claim that after 16 years, it had no idea where Most Wanted mobster “Whitey” Bulger was holed up.

At right around that same time, Angela Helton got a phone call from a friend who worked for the FBI. Would she like to make a video for the Bureau? the friend asked. Helton operated a one-woman media relations firm in South Portland, Maine, called Northeast Media Associates. As someone who always wanted to work for the FBI, who took inspiration from the TV show “Alias” and by her own admission had “a bit of a big mouth,” Helton would be the natural choice for the job.

“Of course! Hello!” she told her FBI friend, and soon Helton, whose clients included Modern Pest Services, had teamed up with Charlie Berg of Blackfly Media, a former collaborator on projects for the Portland Visitors Bureau and Madgirl World, to make what the Bureau called its first video public service announcement. The PSA, she and Berg were told, would be the latest weapon for nabbing the deadly fugitive. They were sworn to secrecy.

Agents swooped down on Berg’s home in Saco, Maine, with surveillance video and sheaves of old photographs of Bulger and his longtime companion, Catherine Greig. It was all very “Men in Black,” Berg later told a reporter for the Bangor Daily News. They soon got on like a house on fire, as the agents would take “finished video back to their superiors, run it up and down the chain, and email over revisions.” Finally, after toiling 11 to 14 hours a day, Helton, Berg and their bffs from the Bureau could rest. The PSA was ready.

On Monday, June 20, the FBI publicly announced the spot would run in 14 media markets beginning Tuesday, June 21. Less than 72 hours after that announcement, Bulger and Greig were in custody in Santa Monica, California.

Greig: Wanted.

The national press relayed news of the capture with almost as much thought-free fanfare as it would, six years later, the appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate the Trump campaign. But just as Mueller’s apparent long indifference to Bulger’s whereabouts deserves scrutiny, as seen in Part 1, so too does the Bureau’s lightning-quick resolution of the case, a mere seven weeks after President Obama surprisingly reappointed Mueller to lead the FBI beyond his 10-year congressionally limited term.

It’s a truism in journalism that for any big story, any scandal, the first 24 to 48 hours are key: whatever narrative takes hold then is likely to remain the story. The official story of Bulger’s capture, in general contour, goes as follows.

The Bureau’s June 20 presser and the PSA itself became news on many local TV stations, CNN and other cable networks as well as the Internet that Monday. On Tuesday, June 21, the PSA, which the FBI says it paid for, began to run during “The View,” “Dr. Oz” and other daytime television programs geared toward women.

The ad was 30 seconds long and focused on Catherine Greig. It showed photos from the 1990s and mentioned her extensive plastic surgery. It described her as “harboring” Whitey Bulger, and included pictures of them together, surveillance footage of Whitey and a reference to his violent temper.

In announcing capture of its elusive quarry, the FBI initially said little other than that the arrest came about as a result of a tip generated by the ad. It did not identify anything about the tipster, who stood to gain $100,000 for Greig and $2 million for Bulger.

According to Boston Special Agent in Charge Richard DesLauriers, the call came into the Bureau’s Los Angeles office on Tuesday at 8 PM Pacific time. The caller gave an exact address in Santa Monica. Just after 4 PM the next day, June 22, members of the FBI and the LAPD began conducting surveillance at the address. At about 5:45, having determined it was indeed Bulger’s apartment building, they lured him out and arrested him and then Greig.

The next day, WBUR radio in Boston reported that, according to “law enforcement sources,” the tip had come from a woman in Iceland who saw a report on CNN and immediately rang up.

The Boston Globe dispatched reporters to Iceland. In October, the paper reported that the woman was Anna Bjornsdottir (aka Anna Bjorn), a graphic designer, yoga instructor, animal lover, model, actress and Miss Iceland of 1974. As “one of the world’s most beautiful and successful models” in the 1970s, according to a People magazine profile, Bjorn had appeared in one of Noxzema’s “Take it off” shaving cream ads, as well as in movies and TV shows, including “More American Graffiti” and “Fantasy Island.” She and her second husband were dividing their time between Reykjavik and Santa Monica, where they lived near Bulger and Greig.

Anna Bjornsdottir in “The Sword and the Sorcerer.”

According to neighbors, Bjornsdottir bonded with Greig over their shared devotion to a stray cat. Miss Iceland didn’t win Miss Congeniality for nothing.

Unremarked during any of the breathless reporting at the time were a number of curiosities, not least that, by the FBI’s timeline, it would have been 4 AM in Reykjavik when Bjornsdottir happened to catch CNN’s news report on the FBI’s ad and lunged for the phone. As it turned out, of the hundreds of calls that the FBI says it received in response to the ad campaign, the only call from a Santa Monica resident was that one from the erstwhile, and faraway, Miss Iceland.

****

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Angela Helton exclaimed upon hearing the news that the ad she’d produced had had such stunning success. Her exuberant cry unwittingly summarized the response of those familiar with Whitey’s long history with the FBI, especially residents of the city of Boston.

Despite the suggestion in the Bureau’s statement that its eureka moment in cracking the case came when it decided to focus the search on Greig instead of Bulger, this was not the FBI’s first Greig-centered campaign. In May 2010, it took out an ad in “Plastic Surgery News,” an industry trade journal, which featured old photos of Greig and even the serial numbers of her breast implants.

News of that ad, the FBI’s first public effort of any kind in years, was greeted with derision in Boston, where its esoteric appeal was considered to be mainly an effort to convince the public that the FBI was actively seeking Bulger. Initially, the PSA approach was considered the same, doomed to fail but intended to convince the public that the FBI was still even interested.

After the first flush of excitement that the infamous mob boss had been caught, Boston reporters grew agitated. At a news conference in Boston they peppered Special Agent DesLauriers and federal prosecutor Carmen Ortiz with questions that quickly soured the feds’ triumphal mood. Because Whitey had previously been sighted in the LA area and was actually arrested there, why had the Bureau run the ad in locations like Biloxi and Milwaukee but not in Los Angeles? The official response – the ad ran “in California” (it did, in San Francisco and San Diego) – was not satisfactory. You run the ad in cities near a location where Whitey has been seen but not in the city itself?

And where were the booking photos? Although that question is audible throughout recordings of the press conference, Prosecutor Ortiz ignored it until it was the only one left. “We don’t release booking photos,” she brusquely replied. Although in some cases the Justice Department had not released booking photos (like that of former presidential candidate John Edwards arrested for campaign finance violations), the very same week of Bulger’s arrest the booking photos of two alleged New Jersey terrorists (Mohamed Alessa and Carlos Eduardo Almonte) were disseminated widely. Ortiz’s response only raised more questions. After all, no booking photos, presto, no possible comparison with the PSA.

At this point, the Iceland connection had not yet been reported, but the FBI got defensive. It released a statement refuting press reports that the tip initially received low priority, given the time lag between when the FBI got the call and when it deployed agents at Bulger’s address. It issued a fuller press release, noting that the PSA “focused on the 60-year-old Greig’s physical appearance, habits, and personality traits and…[had] other details including her love of animals.”

The PSA, though, is silent on Greig’s habits and personality. Beyond its 20-year-old images, it suggests nothing about the 60-year-old Greig’s appearance. It also makes no mention of her love of animals. It does include a single photograph of Greig and Bulger wearing huge sunglasses and walking a dog.

Perhaps the Bureau’s PR department is just shoddy and muddled up what the PSA actually contained and what was in its own press release of June 20. The latter mentioned that Greig, a former dental hygienist, was likely to have good teeth, that she was five foot six, had blue eyes, frequented beauty salons and “loves dogs and all kinds of animals.” None of those details, along with Whitey’s own enthusiasm for animals and books about Hitler, appear in the PSA.

So what are the odds that at 4 AM in Iceland, a yoga instructor who vacations in Santa Monica caught the CNN report, glimpsed Greig’s much younger face, zeroed in on the animal angle from what at best would have been a quick reference and immediately made the connection? This, while having no prior reason to associate the elderly couple with Bulger or organized crime.

What are the odds, moreover, that among Greig’s many neighbors – especially retirees who saw her and Bulger on a regular basis, interacted with them and were acutely familiar with the woman’s passion for stray cats – not one would have also seen the PSA on CNN and made the split-second connection?

In fact, those residents could not believe that their two neighbors were the notorious couple.  Their apartment building manager, who was quite friendly with Bulger and routinely interacted with him, never recognized the gangster, despite having attended Boston University. Miss Iceland is not known to have any Boston connection.

As incredible as all that seems, it is not as if the FBI had never previously received a tip about Bulger in Santa Monica. In 2008, after “America’s Most Wanted” aired a segment on the wanted criminal, a viewer called in saying he’d seen a man who looked like Whitey playing chess on the Santa Monica beachfront. The show’s creator, John Walsh, confirmed that the tip came in and was passed on to the FBI. The FBI did nothing.

In July of 2011 this fellow, Keith Messina of Las Vegas, complained to the Boston Herald: “They are saying someone in Iceland found Whitey? Who is that person? I found Whitey three years ago. I didn’t make the call for the reward. I just wanted the guy caught. But now the FBI is lying and saying the reward is going to Iceland. I saw the guy. I did the right thing and called. I left my name and number. I should be at least entitled to something.”

Walsh, no doubt protective of his access to the Bureau, took pains to say that Messina’s tip had no specifics, but the man never got a call from the Bureau to elaborate. And how specific would one need to be when, as it turned out, Bulger and Greig lived only a few blocks from the beach – and, incidentally, about five miles from the FBI’s Westwood office?

It was not until August 1, and then only after Reuters had filed an FOIA request, that the US Marshals Service released the mugshots. By that time the national media caravan had moved on, and national consciousness with it. In Boston, though, where Whitey’s story has legs to this day, the pictures were major news. Bulger, completely bald, bearded and looking more like a monk than a wiseguy, was indistinguishable from pictures on the PSA or the Most Wanted list. Lyndsey Cyr, the mother of his only child, said publicly that she would never have recognized him. Upon close and prolonged inspection, Greig’s nose and mouth bear a trace of her youthful photos, but the 30-second PSA gave its viewers no such time to linger.

It is worth mentioning that numerous studies on memory, facial recognition and eyewitness reliability have shown that people have an extraordinarily difficult time accurately identifying a person’s face, even when no significant time has passed. Again, what are the odds that a person caught unawares by a news report at 4 in the morning would accurately identify a face from 20-year-old photographs briefly glimpsed?

Anna Bjornsdottir got the $2 million for Bulger, according to the Boston Globe (the FBI says the full $2.1 million went to more than one person). She has never spoken publicly about the case. When confronted by Boston Globe reporters in Reykjavik, she fled into her apartment building. Her husband, Halldor Gudmundsson, a long time CEO of Iceland’s largest ad agency, has also been silent, except to send an email saying that Anna values her privacy.

She’s not likely to fear retribution, as reports in the Icelandic press indicate that she returned to visit her old haunts in Santa Monica even after her identity was disclosed. Whitey is in jail, officially a rat, hated by his former associates, so there is no danger there. Her story is worth additional media millions, yet she has not cashed in.

Although the official version of Whitey’s arrest was ultimately grudgingly accepted by Boston media, chiefly because they could never prove otherwise, many in Boston have never accepted it, and interest in anything Bulger persists. Dick Lehr is the co-author of the book “Black Mass,” and is also considered the gold standard of journalists following the Bulger saga. He followed up in 2013 with “Whitey: The Life of America’s Most Notorious Mob Boss.” There Lehr writes that an argument with Whitey over Bjornsdottir’s stated admiration for Barack Obama was an additional factor in her recognizing him. Bulger’s anger and subsequent refusal to acknowledge her reportedly made quite an impression on her.

While Whitey’s famous temper was mentioned in the PSA and his racist attitudes were legendary to those who already knew him, an argument over Barack Obama being translated into recognizing him as a crime boss from a 30-second ad sounds farfetched. How many elderly, cranky white men would have had exactly the same attitudes in 2011?

The superintendent of Bulger’s building, Joshua Bond, told Lehr about a similar run-in he’d had, but the dispute did not lead him to imagine he was fighting with a fugitive organized crime kingpin. Lehr never spoke personally to Anna Bjornsdottir, and has said that the Obama incident was confirmed by “sources.” While Bulger’s neighbors might have provided this information, it might also have come from law enforcement intent on convincing a skeptical public with information that can’t be disputed, understanding that the stray cat fable alone was a real stretch.   

The Bulger manhunt “was the most expensive in FBI history…whatever we asked for, we got,” according to a former Boston Police Department detective and member of the Bulger task force until 2003. That makes it hard to believe that, as the FBI told Lehr, the Bureau didn’t run the ad in Los Angeles because it couldn’t afford the media buy.

Whitey had been on the lam for sixteen years when all of a sudden the Bureau hired a tiny shop in Maine to produce an advertisement in a process that required breakneck speed. Why the urgency? Why suddenly work 11- to 14-hour days to produce a public service announcement? Politicians of both parties and the media at large have never fully grasped the depths of the Bulger-FBI scandal and the dark shadow it should cast on Bob Mueller’s reputation. Did Mueller’s confirmation meeting with Obama stimulate this rapid-fire publicity campaign? Had the Pakistani ambassador hit too close to home and taken away leverage in one of the US’s most complicated foreign policy relationships?

Nobody believes Pakistan’s government knew nothing about Osama Bin Laden’s lair. Why should anyone believe that the FBI knew nothing about Bulger’s retirement home location until a former beauty queen in Iceland picked up the phone?

Donald Trump, Charles Manson And The Partridge Family: The Untold Connection

On November 19, the leader of the Manson family died. Two days later, the leader of the Partridge Family died. Just a coincidence?

As an excommunicated former member of a certain Austin-based conspiracy cult, that was the first question that came to mind. So in an attempt to connect these two unconnected things, I decided to investigate, beginning with my record collection.

The first record I ever bought was a Partridge Family album. It was probably 1972, when I was in second grade.

I had already been gifted the Hanna-Barbera recording of Pinocchio a few years earlier, along with a portable General Electric record player to play it on. After listening to Pinocchio for a few years, I figured it was time to get another record.

I was in K-Mart one day with my mother, and when I asked if she would buy me a record, she said OK. I chose the Partridge Family album Sound Magazine. I don’t know why I picked that one. I wasn’t really a fan of the TV show, but I had certainly seen it. It was probably the only thing in the record bin that I recognized.

I still have that record, and when David Cassidy died the other day, I dug it out for the first time in about 45 years.

As a kid, I didn’t know The Partridge Family was a fake band — that frequently overlooked subcategory of fake news. Actually, the band was only partially fake, because David Cassidy (Keith Partridge) sang on the record, as did his real-life stepmother and Academy Award-winning Hollywood musical diva, Shirley Jones (Shirley Partridge).

I also didn’t know The Partridge Family was modeled on The Cowsills, which was a real family and a real band, as told in the grim, must-see documentary Family Band: The Cowsills Story.

As a kid, yet another thing I didn’t know was that The Partridge Family was part of a musical genre known as “Bubblegum,” which was dominated by fake bands who were strategically marketed to be apolitical and trivial at a time of great political and social upheaval.

Examining the liner notes to Sound Magazine with adult eyes, I see that the The Partridge Family band actually consisted of some of the best musicians money can buy.

The drummer was Hal Blaine, who has drummed on probably more records than anybody.

The bass player was Max Bennett, a name I know because he totally kicked ass on Frank Zappa’s pioneering jazz-rock album Hot Rats.

There are two guitar players listed, both of them heavyweights. One is Dennis Budimir, whose name I know from another Zappa album, Lumpy Gravy, but who is best-known for playing with almost every jazz legend you can think of.

The other guitarist, Louie Shelton, has also played on countless records, and is particularly famous for his immortal riff on “Last Train To Clarksville” by The Monkees, the greatest fake band of all.

In the crucial section of liner notes called “My Favorite Things,” it says Cassidy’s favorite song was “The Thrill is Gone,” which was first time I ever heard the name B.B. King, and I never forgot it.

Another detail from the liner notes is not so interesting, however. There’s a song called “Echo Valley 2-6809,” which is a fake telephone number from back when telephone numbers contained words. I didn’t know then, and still don’t know, where “Echo Valley” is. But I’m pretty sure it doesn’t refer to a big-bosomed gal named Echo Valley, whose picture came up when I Googled the words “Echo Valley.”

As for Echo Valley the song, I now see it was co-written by Rupert Holmes — the guy responsible for the ghastly “Pina Colada Song,” which Americans loved so much that it became the last #1 hit of the 1970s.

Die, Rupert Holmes, Die.

By that time, The Partridge Family had been off the charts for years, ever since David Cassidy attempted to murder Keith Partridge by posing nude for Annie Leibovitz in a 1972 issue of Rolling Stone.

The famous photographer recalled: “He did this thing he really shouldn’t have done and got into deep trouble for it. In retrospect, I feel sad. But since the shoot, I’ve seen him on a couple of occasions, and he thanked me because he said it moved him on. He desperately wanted to get off the show and he sort of committed professional suicide to get out of his contract. That ended one period of his career.”

As Kim “Bette Davis Eyes” Carnes told Rolling Stone, he used to say: “The problem is my name is David Cassidy, and nobody takes what I do seriously.”

But even after shedding his Partridge alter-ego, he still was never taken seriously as a musician. He ended up on The Apprentice, where Donald Trump fired him for being “weak.”

You know who would’ve made a great Apprentice? Charlie Manson. A ruthless con artist with a killer instinct. He, too, was a musician who nobody took seriously.

 

“Take The Money”: Paul Manafort is not the only politician with a foreign lobbyist problem

OK, so last week Paul Manafort was indicted in the RussiaGate investigation, which I wrote about here in these pages and for Politico. But as it turns out, though you probably already knew or sensed this, there is at least one other other prominent political figure who has problems with foreign lobbyists and corruption: you guessed it, Hillary Clinton.

Manafort, as I have written about previously, is accused of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, which is a complete joke. The law was enacted in 1938, but it’s been under-enforced or not enforced at all for ages. But guess who else might have a few issues — and far worse ones, it seems — in terms of foreign lobbyists, according to this under-appreciated Wikileaks email. That’s right: Hillary.

Before going further, a big hat tip to Charles Ortel, the brilliant researcher who has done more than anyone to expose the Clinton Foundation pay-to-play scam and who brought the Wikileaks email to my attention.

Here’s my complete, slightly edited email interview/exchange I had with him on the topic:

Charles: Worth considering this [Wikileaks email and link] in context of the campaign evolution as well as Manafort/Gates indictments. 

Me: What specifically? What’s key takeaway?

Charles: This is thinking of top Clinton people about risks posed taking campaign money from bundlers who also worked with foreign principals — foreign principals (governments, parties, and companies) who likely overpay “legitimate” recipients for services who then can route portions from U.S. pockets to campaigns.

[Director of Communications for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign] Jen Palmieri responds “Take the money.”
 
Imagine how awful life would be had that team won….jeepers!
So what exactly do these Wikileaks email say? Give me a few minutes….
OK, this is pretty interesting. The 2015 email chain — between a few officials, including Palmieri, laughingstock Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and Hillary’s long-suffering top aide and Anthony Weiner spouse Huma Abedin — had a subject line of “Foreign Registered Agents.” Here’s part of it:
From: Dennis Cheng
Hi all – we do need to make a decision on this ASAP as our friends who happen to be registered with FARA are already donating and raising. I do want to push back a bit (it’s my job!): I feel like we are leaving a good amount of money on the table (both for primary and general, and then DNC and state parties)… and how do we explain to people that we’ll take money from a corporate lobbyist but not them; that the Foundation takes $ from foreign govts but we now won’t. Either way, we need to make a decision soon.
From: Robby Mook
Where do we draw the line though?
From: Marc Elias
Responding to all on this. I was not on the call this morning, but I lean away from a bright line rule here. It seems odd to say that someone who represents Alberta, Canada can’t give, but a lobbyist for Phillip Morris can. Just as we vet lobbyists case by case, I would do the same with FARA. While this may lead to a large number of FARA registrants being denied, it would not be a flat our ban. A total ban feels arbitrary and will engender the same eye-rolling and ill will that it did for Obama.
From: Marc Elias
If we do it case by case, then it will be subjective. We would look at who the donor is and what foreign entity they are registered for. In judging whether to take the money, we would consider the relationship between that country and the United States, its relationship to the State Department during Hillary’s time as Secretary, and its relationship, if any, to the Foundation. In judging the individual, we would look at their history of support for political candidates generally and Hillary’s past campaigns specifically. Put simply, we would use the same criteria we use for lobbyists, except with a somewhat more stringent screen. As a legal matter, I am not saying we have to do this – we can decide to simply ban foreign registrants entirely. I’m just offering this up as a middle ground.
From: Dennis Cheng  
Hi all – we really need to make a final decision on this. We’re getting to the point of no return…
From: Jennifer Palmieri
Take the money!!

 

"Take The Money": Paul Manafort is not the only politician with a foreign lobbyist problem

OK, so last week Paul Manafort was indicted in the RussiaGate investigation, which I wrote about here in these pages and for Politico. But as it turns out, though you probably already knew or sensed this, there is at least one other other prominent political figure who has problems with foreign lobbyists and corruption: you guessed it, Hillary Clinton.

Manafort, as I have written about previously, is accused of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, which is a complete joke. The law was enacted in 1938, but it’s been under-enforced or not enforced at all for ages. But guess who else might have a few issues — and far worse ones, it seems — in terms of foreign lobbyists, according to this under-appreciated Wikileaks email. That’s right: Hillary.

Before going further, a big hat tip to Charles Ortel, the brilliant researcher who has done more than anyone to expose the Clinton Foundation pay-to-play scam and who brought the Wikileaks email to my attention.

Here’s my complete, slightly edited email interview/exchange I had with him on the topic:

Charles: Worth considering this [Wikileaks email and link] in context of the campaign evolution as well as Manafort/Gates indictments. 

Me: What specifically? What’s key takeaway?

Charles: This is thinking of top Clinton people about risks posed taking campaign money from bundlers who also worked with foreign principals — foreign principals (governments, parties, and companies) who likely overpay “legitimate” recipients for services who then can route portions from U.S. pockets to campaigns.

[Director of Communications for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign] Jen Palmieri responds “Take the money.”
 
Imagine how awful life would be had that team won….jeepers!
So what exactly do these Wikileaks email say? Give me a few minutes….
OK, this is pretty interesting. The 2015 email chain — between a few officials, including Palmieri, laughingstock Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and Hillary’s long-suffering top aide and Anthony Weiner spouse Huma Abedin — had a subject line of “Foreign Registered Agents.” Here’s part of it:
From: Dennis Cheng
Hi all – we do need to make a decision on this ASAP as our friends who happen to be registered with FARA are already donating and raising. I do want to push back a bit (it’s my job!): I feel like we are leaving a good amount of money on the table (both for primary and general, and then DNC and state parties)… and how do we explain to people that we’ll take money from a corporate lobbyist but not them; that the Foundation takes $ from foreign govts but we now won’t. Either way, we need to make a decision soon.
From: Robby Mook
Where do we draw the line though?
From: Marc Elias
Responding to all on this. I was not on the call this morning, but I lean away from a bright line rule here. It seems odd to say that someone who represents Alberta, Canada can’t give, but a lobbyist for Phillip Morris can. Just as we vet lobbyists case by case, I would do the same with FARA. While this may lead to a large number of FARA registrants being denied, it would not be a flat our ban. A total ban feels arbitrary and will engender the same eye-rolling and ill will that it did for Obama.
From: Marc Elias
If we do it case by case, then it will be subjective. We would look at who the donor is and what foreign entity they are registered for. In judging whether to take the money, we would consider the relationship between that country and the United States, its relationship to the State Department during Hillary’s time as Secretary, and its relationship, if any, to the Foundation. In judging the individual, we would look at their history of support for political candidates generally and Hillary’s past campaigns specifically. Put simply, we would use the same criteria we use for lobbyists, except with a somewhat more stringent screen. As a legal matter, I am not saying we have to do this – we can decide to simply ban foreign registrants entirely. I’m just offering this up as a middle ground.
From: Dennis Cheng  
Hi all – we really need to make a final decision on this. We’re getting to the point of no return…
From: Jennifer Palmieri
Take the money!!

 

EXCLUSIVE: Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Are Politically Exposed

Well, the big news this week is that President Donald Trump’s one-time campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was indicted on charges that he illegally funneled more than $18 millions “through overseas shell companies and used the money to buy luxury cars, real estate, antiques and expensive suits,” in the words of the New York Times. The newspaper said that the indictments don’t mention Trump or election meddling but instead describe “in granular detail Mr. Manafort’s lobbying work in Ukraine and what prosecutors said was a scheme to hide that money from tax collectors and the public.”
Manafort alleges that he is the victim of a political witch hunt — and I’m somewhat sympathetic to his argument, as I wrote about yesterday. The problem for Manafort is that even if he is in fact being targeted for political reasons — to get Trump — he’s still going to go to prison if he is found guilty of the crimes he is charged with (unless he flips and cuts a deal).
I’ve just now had a very interesting conversation with Monte Friesner, a convicted fraudster, former money launderer, and one time CIA contractor. Monte served his time but now he — along with Kenneth Rijock, another source of mine and also a former money launderer-turned-financial crime consultant who has testified three times before Congress — helps banks and law enforcement perform enhanced due diligence on clients and suspected criminals.
Monte and Ken have been tracking Manafort for some time, through classic investigative techniques and the use of EDDI-IQ, an enhanced due diligence database they use in their work advising banks and law enforcement. Take a look at the photograph that accompanies this story; it’s a screenshot of the first page of the EDDI-IQ report on Manafort, which Monte graciously shared with me.
It shows that Manfort is considered by EDDI-IQ to be a Politically Exposed Person (PEP). It also shows that he is specifically considered to be politically exposed because he is an “Associate of Donald John Trump, President of the United States.” The report’s first page provides some information about Manafort’s business practices that further explain why EDDI-IQ deems him to be a PEP. Monte told me that he obtained additional information about Manafort through well-informed associates in Cyprus and Ukraine.
What this all means is that EDDI-IQ and Monte deem Manafort to be too hot to handle for global financial institutions. If Manafort or one of his associates or bagmen want to deposit money in a bank, the bank would be well advised to turn that money away or they run a risk of being busted for taking in dirty cash. Furthermore, a company with which Manafort wants to do business, say as a partner or investor, would be equally well advised to turn down such a relationship because they run a higher-than-usual risk of being prosecuted for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
“This guy is not merely the victim of a witch hunt,” Monte, who likes to say that “It takes a money launderer to catch a money launderer,” told me. “He laundered money in a stupid way.” Meanwhile, check out this story at Wanted SA, a website with which Monte is affiliated, for more on Manafort.

Part II: Who’s The Bigger Gun Nut, Uncle Sam or Stephen Paddock?

(Note: We ran Part I of this story yesterday. It concludes today. The story originally ran at Consortiumnews.com.)

Let’s recall that the United States, a.k.a. Uncle Sam, is home to around 4.4 percent of the world’s population, yet somehow accounts for over one-third of all military spending. That spending may have something to do with how 4.4 percent of the world’s population is able to consume, on average, about a quarter of the world’s various resources, but that’s another issue.

Instead, let’s look at China. Considered to be something between a cordial competitor and a full-blown adversary, China is home to approximately 20 percent of the world’s population (about five times America’s share), but it only spends about one-quarterof what the U.S. does on its arsenal. Still, that makes China the world’s second biggest spender with a budget of $151.43 billion for 2017. Frankly, that’s dwarfed by America’s $700+ billion. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Compare the two side-by-side (thanks to globalfirepower.com) and you might start thinking of Uncle Sam as a committed gun nut.

For example, Uncle Sam has 20 aircraft carriers … and China has one, with one on the way.  Uncle Sam has 41,062 armored fighting vehicles … and China has 4,788. Uncle Sam has 6,065 helicopters … and China has 912. Uncle Sam has 2,785 attack aircraft and 2,296 fighters. China has about half of that with 1,385 attack aircraft, 1,271 fighters.

The Chinese do have about 600 more tanks and a bunch more small naval craft, but that’s more a function of their geographical challenges than some willy-nilly binge by the world’s third-strongest military. After all, they do have land borders with historically hostile powers. And Uncle Sam does continue to pressure them at sea. Apparently, it’s Uncle Sam’s job to control what the Chinese do in the South China Sea.

It’s also quite telling to make these same comparisons to Russia. It is the world’s “second-strongest” military and, according to the drumbeat of conventional wisdom-makers, it is Uncle Sam’s main global competitor. Home to less than 2 percent of the world’s population, Russia is “now the world’s third largest military spender,” according to a grabby headline by CNNMoney.

Sounds ominous … that is, until you see that it only takes $69.2 billion for Russia to secure the third spot. For perspective, that’s less than the amount ($80 billion) Uncle Sam’s added to this year’s budget over last year’s budget. That’s also less than the amount of money ($75.9 billion) Uncle Sam made for the defense industry this year by selling weapons to other countries.

Still, Russia is fairly well-armed. Unlike Uncle Sam, Russia is not surrounded by two oceans and two friendly, militarily weak allies. Quite to the contrary. In fact, Uncle Sam and his proxies have crowded Russia with forces to its WestSouth and East. U.S. forces also encircle China, but let’s stay on target.

As a result of their geography and history, Russia is heavier on tanks (20,216) and armored fighting vehicles (31,298) than Uncle Sam. Yet, the Russian Bear lags on attack aircraft (1,428), on fighter aircraft (806), on helicopters (1,389) and it is way behind on power-projecting aircraft carriers with just one “notoriously rickety” ship.

Russia does have 7,300 nuclear warheads, but it is nowhere near America’s capability to deploy forces through its vast network of approximately 800 bases and facilities in more than 70 countries. On the other hand, scholar David Vine estimates that “Britain, France and Russia … have about 30 foreign bases combined.”

These significant imbalances probably account for Russia’s recent move into “non-violent” forms of hybrid and asymmetrical warfare. It’s one way to close current and future gaps. And both Russia and China are making inroads on drones, but neither has the reach of Uncle Sam’s fleet … which is advancing and growing all the time. So far, neither China nor Russia has demonstrated a willingness to use drones as roving kill machines in other people’s countries. That remains Uncle Sam’s gun-slinging claim to fame … as does the unchallenged ability to dwarf the next eight biggest military spenders combined.

Let’s face it, Uncle Sam is, globally speaking, an armament “super-owner.” Like many of America’s civilian “super-owners,” it could be said that Uncle Sam just likes guns … or that he’s just an avid collector … or that guns are not just his hobby, but also his business. And that’s true, too.

As a matter of fact, Uncle Sam has turned foreign policy into a great big, rolling gun show. He often attends actual, government-sponsored military “trade shows” like the bi-annual Special Operations Forces Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi. Each year there are dozens of these military-themed events and air shows around the world. These glorified gun shows are golden opportunities for the State and Defense Departments to attract buyers to America’s growing supermarket of weaponry.

America used to be “the Arsenal of Democracy.” Now it is the “World’s Gun Shop,” and Uncle Sam is selling everything from THAAD missile defense systems (Stock Tip: buy Lockheed Martin) to boondoggled F-35 jets (still buy Lockheed). And in an amazing bit of gun nut symmetry, the “Trump administration is preparing to make it easier for American gun makers to sell small arms, including assault rifles and ammunition, to foreign buyers,” according to Reuters.

That final bit of salesmanship is probably a response to the sharp decline in domestic small arms sales after Trump replaced President Barack Obama in the Oval Office. Under President Obama, federal gun background checks increased for 19 straight months. By the end of Obama’s tenure the gun industry had grown by a staggering 158 percent and the “total economic impact of the firearms and ammunition industry in the U.S. increased from $19.1 billion in 2008 to $49.3 billion in 2015,” reported Forbes. It rose to $51.3 billion in Obama’s final year.

This buying binge was stoked by gunmakers’ de facto sales reps in the National Rifle Association and in the Right-Wing media … who told gun-loving Americans that the first Black President was coming to take their firearms. So, they went out and stocked-up before Obama and George Soros could deploy an army of U.N. gun-grabbers in powder blue helmets deep into the blood-red heart of America. The grabbers never came, but the profits spiked handsomely for Sturm Ruger, Remington Outdoor, Smith & Wesson and seven more of America’s leading gunmakers.

Ironically, the party ended when the NRA’s most beloved candidate of all-time took the oath of office. Trump purposefully and quite effectively ran as a defiant gun nut. He repeatedly touted his love of guns and his admiration of his sons’ love of killing animals with guns. And when he won, gun-lovers stopped hoarding guns at a record pace. For them, the prophesied “gunpocalypse” had been avoided, so they relaxed a bit. But the collateral damage of America’s exceptional gun-nuttery keeps on mounting, both at home and abroad.

The Independent (UK) found that “nearly 1,400” people were shot around America in the week following the Las Vegas massacre. That’s just one week’s worth of shooting. Even more daunting, they determined that “24,862 [Americans] have been injured and 12,208 have been killed as a result of gun violence” so far this year. It’s a bloody, but sadly unsurprising addendum to the ponderous aftermath of the “worst mass shooting” in U.S. history.

At the same time, Americans remain largely ignorant of the “mass casualty event” that’s unfolded around the world over the last 16 years. Fortunately, the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University has done the thankless job of keeping tabs on Uncle Sam’s Global War on Terror. Their “Costs of War” project estimates that Uncle Sam’s wars are directly responsible for 370,000 deaths, responsible for another 800,000 indirect deaths and that some 200,000 civilians died “at the hands of all parties to the conflict” America instigated.

And like those solitary super-owners who spend freely on guns without batting an eye, Uncle Sam seems decidedly nonplussed by the $4.8 trillion “price tag” for his post-9/11 wars.

Even more telling, this prolonged, costly slaughter has done little to slake Uncle Sam’s thirst for more guns. In fact, one of the hallmarks of Donald Trump’s candidacy was not just his full-throated praise for the NRA, but his constant claim that America’s military had been “depleted.” Of course, he promised a Paddock-like spending spree to make it bigger than ever before. Trump essentially presaged Heritage’s lament about Uncle Sam’s supposed military weakness. And it set up a spike in defense spending that will ensure that America stands alone as the world’s sole “super-owner.”

All of which points to some obvious, if seldom asked, questions: Is the Heritage Foundation’s report on the U.S. military really that different from the NRA’s repeated exhortations to individual gun owners? Don’t the makers of weapons big and small both profit from the thinly veiled salesmanship of Heritage and the NRA, the collateral damage be damned? Really, what’s the difference between Smith & Wesson and Lockheed Martin? Or between bystanders being shot with lead bullets or struck by a high-tech Tomahawk?

Aren’t we as a military power much like those 7.7 million super-owners who stockpile arms like a paranoid survivalist who sees boogeymen and gun-grabbers around every corner? And don’t we as a globe-trotting nation differ little from the individual Americans who “open-carry” guns into a Wendy’s or Walmart … as if they are not just looking for a chance to flaunt them, but also for a reason to use them?

Sadly, though, that’s not where it ends because just like Stephen Paddock had his outsized arsenal of weapons stashed in his homes and his car, so too does Uncle Sam have his arsenal dispersed in caches strewn around the world. And the only logical reason to build up an arsenal well beyond what’s needed to protect your personal safety or national security … is because you intend on using that arsenal to kill people. That much is clear about Stephen Paddock. Isn’t it also clear about Uncle Sam? It is certainly clear to millions of people around the Muslim world.

Ultimately, is Uncle Sam really that different from Stephen Paddock? More to the point, if we are looking for answers to the Las Vegas shooting, perhaps we should ask if Stephen Paddock is really that different from Uncle Sam?  Because the truth is that Uncle Sam — the collective “we” also known as America — is the world’s paragon of gun-nuttery. He is the author of many senseless slaughters with inexplicable motives and unclear ends. And it seems unlikely that we’ll ever be able to explain Stephen Paddock’s gun-craziness until we finally make some effort to look in the mirror and examine Uncle Sam’s exceptional role as the world’s leading gun nut.

Part I: Who’s The Bigger Gun Nut, Uncle Sam or Stephen Paddock?

It’s beginning to look like we may never fully understand Stephen Paddock’s “military-grade” assault on the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. Law enforcement keeps looking in vain for some sort of motive in the dark abyss of Paddock’s odd life. Alt-Right conspiracists are churning out click-baited concoctions that often border on the comical. And the rest of us are left to ponder how and why a wealthy cipher amassed a huge arsenal of weapons that allowed him to become a one-man army.

Frankly, what would motivate anyone to buy 33 guns in 12 months if it wasn’t to plot a spectacular, action movie-style attack on human beings? To wit, much of Paddock’s year-long spending spree ended-up in the 23-gun “armory” he assembled in the fully-comped Mandalay Bay suite that served as his ghoulish sniper’s nest. And that wasn’t all. Police found additional caches of weapons, ammunition and explosives in Paddock’s car and in his homes in both Reno and Mesquite, Nevada. By the time Paddock murdered 58 non-combatants in his inexplicable war, he’d stockpiled 47 guns and many thousands of bullets.

Stephen Paddock is not alone. His high-powered hoarding made him one of America’s 7.7 million “super-owners” who on average possess 17 firearms. That’s 3 percent of Americans loaded for bear with half of America’s approximately 265 million guns, according to a report in Newsweek. And the Pew Research Center found that another 42 percent of Americans either “own a gun themselves or live in a household” with at least one gun.

Taken together, that means America is by far the world’s leading gun-toting country, with nearly 90 firearms per 100 residents. But it’s those “super-owners” like Paddock who truly stand out as the troubling exemplars of America’s well-documented “gun culture.” As Newsweek succinctly put it, Paddock was a “gun nut.”

Stephen Paddock has some competition.

But when it comes to gun nuts, can any one super-owner compare to the gargantuan gun-nut known as “Uncle Sam”? Just like the disproportionate arsenal held by America’s corps of one-man armies, super-owning Uncle Sam represents about 4.4 percent of the world’s population but accounts for over one-third of the planet’s total military spending. And like Paddock during his pre-attack buying binge, Uncle Sam keeps adding to his already ample collection.

In 2017, Uncle Sam is slated to lavish $700 billion-plus on just the defense budget alone. There will also be more defense-related spending on “upgrading” America’s 6,800 nuclear weapons, on funding the opaquely-named “Overseas Contingency Operations” account that fuels various wars, on floating the titanic Department of Homeland Security and on the militarization of law enforcement. That’s a gun-buying bonanza that’d make Rambo blush. But unlike the murderous “lone wolves” who pass through the news cycle with alarming regularity, Uncle Sam and his taxpayer-funded gun-nuttery — along with the civilian casualties those weapons often produce doesn’t seem to garner anything close to the level of media scrutiny, political hand-wringing or somber opinioneering that accompanies each new All-American slaughter.

In fact, the Fourth Estate completely ignored a made-to-order chance to examine the broader contextual implications of Uncle Sam’s gun obsession just four days after Paddock used a bump-stock to hit the bullet-spraying “happy spot” that deluged almost 600 people in roughly ten minutes. That opportunity came from the gun-friendly Heritage Foundation. It is perhaps the most aptly-named think tank to ever weigh-in on Uncle Sam’s unabashed, yet widely unacknowledged, gun addiction.

On October 5, Heritage issued its annual assessment of the world’s largest, most powerful and most widely-deployed military. But just like last year, this year’s “Index of U.S. Military Strength” described an “unsettling trend” that, according to Heritage’s Center for National Defense, “leaves no room for interpretation — America’s military has undoubtedly grown weaker.” That’s right. The head-knockers at Heritage believe Uncle Sam desperately needs more guns … and more bullets, more bombs, more missiles and ever-more powerful nuclear weapons.

That also means more pilots to fly more sorties and, logic dictates, to drop all those new bombs. Like Paddock’s 12-month shopping spree, it stands to reason that buying more weapons will ultimately lead to using more weapons. That’s certainly how it’s gone since Uncle Sam designated the entire planet as a de facto (but not de jure) battlefield back in 2001.

But you don’t have to take Heritage’s word for it. Right before Paddock unleashed his arsenal, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson went to the Air Force Association’s annual gabfest to cry poverty over America’s recently-passed $700 billion splurge. Secretary Mattis bemoaned the existential threat posed by the “caps” on defense spending and Secretary Wilson lamented the fact that Uncle Sam was depleting his stockpile of “modern” and “mature” Tomahawk Missiles (Stock Tip: buy Raytheon).

That’s because Uncle Sam is actively using his prodigious arsenal of weapons, drones, missiles, fighter jets and bunker-busters … and he has done so on a continual basis for years. One might even say that Uncle Sam is an “active shooter” in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria and Somalia and Yemen and, it was revealed the same week Paddock went ballistic, in Niger. The four Green Berets who died in the little-known African nation are just one small part of the often-overlooked deployment of 1.3 millionwell-armed Americans around the world.

Civilians are dying overseas, too … and at an alarming rate since President Donald “Non-Interventionist” Trump loosened the Rules of Engagement to make killing innocent bystanders more acceptable. In Las Vegas, 58 died (plus Paddock) and over 500 more were injured. In one airstrike in Mosul last March, more than 200 men, women and children were killed in one fell swoop by what is essentially a flying gun.

Over in Afghanistan, the United Nations found a “50% increase” in civilian casualties this year. The last nine months of Uncle Sam’s longest war killed 205 civilians and wounded another 261 non-combatants … and “more than two thirds of the civilian victims were women and children,” according to Reuters.

And then there’s Somalia, where a horrific terrorist truck bombing that killed over 300 people was likely in response to a “botched” U.S.-led raid last August that killed 10 civilians, including three children. It would seem that “botched” is in the eye of the beholder.

However, one thing is certain … all of this shooting is taking a toll on Uncle Sam’s stockpile. And that’s really what Heritage is driving at with their warning about “weakness.”

The world is, in fact, getting more dangerous as America uses more weapons that generate more enemies. Heritage thinks that danger requires even more weapons, which, in turn, will make the world more dangerous as they are used in new and exciting places. It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy, but, of course, the Heritage think-tankers don’t make that obvious connection.

For Heritage, this is all part of a supposed “readiness crisis” resulting from an overstretched military that is, some say, particularly strained after engaging in multiple relief efforts after a series of hurricane-wrought disasters. But Mattis, Wilson and the Heritage Foundation are not suggesting that Uncle Sam stock-up on packaged meals, bottled water and “beautiful” paper towels that President Trump will no doubt gladly distribute himself.

Instead, the thrust of these assessments — like many of those churned-out by the Beltway’s bevy of defense-interested war-partiers — is that Uncle Sam needs more weapons and more ways to deliver those weapons to more places around the globe. That’s sometimes called “peace through strength,” but it’s really just hoarding on an epic scale.

Not surprisingly, the reality show-like excessiveness of the hoarding doesn’t even enter the thinking of Heritage’s analysts or the Pentagon’s public-facing representatives or the denizens of Capitol Hill. It is simply taken as a given that more weapons is the answer to every question.

And why not? Hoarding guns is a logical response when the globe looks like a great big movie set just waiting for Uncle Sam’s action heroics to come save the day from a world stage teeming with villainy. The only real question left to answer is: How much firepower is needed to do the job?

(Note: This story originally ran in Consortiumnews.com. Part II will run tomorrow.)

Part I: Who's The Bigger Gun Nut, Uncle Sam or Stephen Paddock?

It’s beginning to look like we may never fully understand Stephen Paddock’s “military-grade” assault on the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. Law enforcement keeps looking in vain for some sort of motive in the dark abyss of Paddock’s odd life. Alt-Right conspiracists are churning out click-baited concoctions that often border on the comical. And the rest of us are left to ponder how and why a wealthy cipher amassed a huge arsenal of weapons that allowed him to become a one-man army.

Frankly, what would motivate anyone to buy 33 guns in 12 months if it wasn’t to plot a spectacular, action movie-style attack on human beings? To wit, much of Paddock’s year-long spending spree ended-up in the 23-gun “armory” he assembled in the fully-comped Mandalay Bay suite that served as his ghoulish sniper’s nest. And that wasn’t all. Police found additional caches of weapons, ammunition and explosives in Paddock’s car and in his homes in both Reno and Mesquite, Nevada. By the time Paddock murdered 58 non-combatants in his inexplicable war, he’d stockpiled 47 guns and many thousands of bullets.

Stephen Paddock is not alone. His high-powered hoarding made him one of America’s 7.7 million “super-owners” who on average possess 17 firearms. That’s 3 percent of Americans loaded for bear with half of America’s approximately 265 million guns, according to a report in Newsweek. And the Pew Research Center found that another 42 percent of Americans either “own a gun themselves or live in a household” with at least one gun.

Taken together, that means America is by far the world’s leading gun-toting country, with nearly 90 firearms per 100 residents. But it’s those “super-owners” like Paddock who truly stand out as the troubling exemplars of America’s well-documented “gun culture.” As Newsweek succinctly put it, Paddock was a “gun nut.”

Stephen Paddock has some competition.

But when it comes to gun nuts, can any one super-owner compare to the gargantuan gun-nut known as “Uncle Sam”? Just like the disproportionate arsenal held by America’s corps of one-man armies, super-owning Uncle Sam represents about 4.4 percent of the world’s population but accounts for over one-third of the planet’s total military spending. And like Paddock during his pre-attack buying binge, Uncle Sam keeps adding to his already ample collection.

In 2017, Uncle Sam is slated to lavish $700 billion-plus on just the defense budget alone. There will also be more defense-related spending on “upgrading” America’s 6,800 nuclear weapons, on funding the opaquely-named “Overseas Contingency Operations” account that fuels various wars, on floating the titanic Department of Homeland Security and on the militarization of law enforcement. That’s a gun-buying bonanza that’d make Rambo blush. But unlike the murderous “lone wolves” who pass through the news cycle with alarming regularity, Uncle Sam and his taxpayer-funded gun-nuttery — along with the civilian casualties those weapons often produce doesn’t seem to garner anything close to the level of media scrutiny, political hand-wringing or somber opinioneering that accompanies each new All-American slaughter.

In fact, the Fourth Estate completely ignored a made-to-order chance to examine the broader contextual implications of Uncle Sam’s gun obsession just four days after Paddock used a bump-stock to hit the bullet-spraying “happy spot” that deluged almost 600 people in roughly ten minutes. That opportunity came from the gun-friendly Heritage Foundation. It is perhaps the most aptly-named think tank to ever weigh-in on Uncle Sam’s unabashed, yet widely unacknowledged, gun addiction.

On October 5, Heritage issued its annual assessment of the world’s largest, most powerful and most widely-deployed military. But just like last year, this year’s “Index of U.S. Military Strength” described an “unsettling trend” that, according to Heritage’s Center for National Defense, “leaves no room for interpretation — America’s military has undoubtedly grown weaker.” That’s right. The head-knockers at Heritage believe Uncle Sam desperately needs more guns … and more bullets, more bombs, more missiles and ever-more powerful nuclear weapons.

That also means more pilots to fly more sorties and, logic dictates, to drop all those new bombs. Like Paddock’s 12-month shopping spree, it stands to reason that buying more weapons will ultimately lead to using more weapons. That’s certainly how it’s gone since Uncle Sam designated the entire planet as a de facto (but not de jure) battlefield back in 2001.

But you don’t have to take Heritage’s word for it. Right before Paddock unleashed his arsenal, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson went to the Air Force Association’s annual gabfest to cry poverty over America’s recently-passed $700 billion splurge. Secretary Mattis bemoaned the existential threat posed by the “caps” on defense spending and Secretary Wilson lamented the fact that Uncle Sam was depleting his stockpile of “modern” and “mature” Tomahawk Missiles (Stock Tip: buy Raytheon).

That’s because Uncle Sam is actively using his prodigious arsenal of weapons, drones, missiles, fighter jets and bunker-busters … and he has done so on a continual basis for years. One might even say that Uncle Sam is an “active shooter” in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria and Somalia and Yemen and, it was revealed the same week Paddock went ballistic, in Niger. The four Green Berets who died in the little-known African nation are just one small part of the often-overlooked deployment of 1.3 millionwell-armed Americans around the world.

Civilians are dying overseas, too … and at an alarming rate since President Donald “Non-Interventionist” Trump loosened the Rules of Engagement to make killing innocent bystanders more acceptable. In Las Vegas, 58 died (plus Paddock) and over 500 more were injured. In one airstrike in Mosul last March, more than 200 men, women and children were killed in one fell swoop by what is essentially a flying gun.

Over in Afghanistan, the United Nations found a “50% increase” in civilian casualties this year. The last nine months of Uncle Sam’s longest war killed 205 civilians and wounded another 261 non-combatants … and “more than two thirds of the civilian victims were women and children,” according to Reuters.

And then there’s Somalia, where a horrific terrorist truck bombing that killed over 300 people was likely in response to a “botched” U.S.-led raid last August that killed 10 civilians, including three children. It would seem that “botched” is in the eye of the beholder.

However, one thing is certain … all of this shooting is taking a toll on Uncle Sam’s stockpile. And that’s really what Heritage is driving at with their warning about “weakness.”

The world is, in fact, getting more dangerous as America uses more weapons that generate more enemies. Heritage thinks that danger requires even more weapons, which, in turn, will make the world more dangerous as they are used in new and exciting places. It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy, but, of course, the Heritage think-tankers don’t make that obvious connection.

For Heritage, this is all part of a supposed “readiness crisis” resulting from an overstretched military that is, some say, particularly strained after engaging in multiple relief efforts after a series of hurricane-wrought disasters. But Mattis, Wilson and the Heritage Foundation are not suggesting that Uncle Sam stock-up on packaged meals, bottled water and “beautiful” paper towels that President Trump will no doubt gladly distribute himself.

Instead, the thrust of these assessments — like many of those churned-out by the Beltway’s bevy of defense-interested war-partiers — is that Uncle Sam needs more weapons and more ways to deliver those weapons to more places around the globe. That’s sometimes called “peace through strength,” but it’s really just hoarding on an epic scale.

Not surprisingly, the reality show-like excessiveness of the hoarding doesn’t even enter the thinking of Heritage’s analysts or the Pentagon’s public-facing representatives or the denizens of Capitol Hill. It is simply taken as a given that more weapons is the answer to every question.

And why not? Hoarding guns is a logical response when the globe looks like a great big movie set just waiting for Uncle Sam’s action heroics to come save the day from a world stage teeming with villainy. The only real question left to answer is: How much firepower is needed to do the job?

(Note: This story originally ran in Consortiumnews.com. Part II will run tomorrow.)

Scoop: Sleaze Panamanian Moneylaundering Firm Has More Ties to Syrian Regime Than Previously Known

Back in 2014, I wrote the first exposé of Mossack Fonseca, the sleazy Panamanian law firm that helps dictators, bagman and oligarchs hide their cash offshore. The firm later became famous when documents leaked to the press — and I still wonder  who leaked them and what their political agenda was — led to the so called Panama Papers scandal.

In that story, I revealed how Mossack Fonseca had helped set up a British Virgin Islands shell company called Drex Technologies SA that was linked to Rami Makhlouf, the richest and most powerful businessman in Syria. Makhlouf is widely believed to be the “bagman” —a person who collects and manages ill-gotten loot — for Syria President Bashar al Assad.

(I’m no fan of Assad, but given what took place in Iraq and Libya after the fall of Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gaddafi, I’m highly dubious about external efforts to replace him, especially given that his primary armed opponents, and the people who would take power if he is removed, are fanatics along the lines of Al Qaeda and ISIS.)

But the relationship between Mossack Fonseca and the Syrian political and business elite appears to be much deeper than previously reported. Take a look at the corporate information for Ramy Trading and Investment, Inc, which was incorporated in 1986.

On the board sits Ramon Fonseca — one of Mossack Fonseca’s partners; the other name partner is Jurgen Mossack, the son of a Nazi SS soldier who was a member of the “Totenkopf,” or Death’s Head unit — and several members of the just utterly delightful Syrian Kuzbari family. Hmmm, Ramy Trading and Investment — I wonder why they’d have called it that?

The father of the Kuzbari board members was briefly prime minister in 1961 following a coup. One name that is absent from this firm’s board members is Nabil Kuzbari, an associate of Rami Makhlouf who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department until 2013. (I’m told he’s related to the Kuzbari board members, but I’m not sure how.)

Incidentally, the Kuzbari family owns a firm called Novus Aviation Capital. Its chief financial officer is Chafic Kuzbari, who is tied to 10 shell companies set up by Mossack Fonseca.

I’ll have more stories about Panamanian shell firms coming soon. Stay tuned.

 

 

Blockbuster: Sydney Leathers Reveals Truth Behind Pervo Anthony Weiner’s Twisted Manipulation of 15-Year-Old Victim

In May of 2016 I was celebrating my upcoming college graduation, not knowing my celebration would be short-lived. That same month I started receiving messages on Facebook from a 15-year-old girl who said she had been sexting and Skyping with Anthony Weiner.

Initially, I thought someone was trying to prank me, that there was no way this could be true. Sure, he had been caught sexting plenty of women, but I just didn’t think he would go after a child in that way.

But then I remembered something: around the time of his first scandal that forced him to resign from Congress he had been caught sexting a 17-year-old girl. I don’t recall that particular part of the scandal being a large focus. Not too many people seemed outraged about it and the media didn’t pay much attention to it.

I’m not sure if that’s because 17 is “close enough” to 18, or if people were distracted by the circus sideshow the scandal had become. (Remember the press conference Andrew Breitbart hijacked?) While I was reconsidering whether or not what this 15-year-old was saying to me was plausible, I decided to ask for some sort of proof.

She quickly sent a screenshot of a conversation she was having with Weiner via Facebook messenger. The first thing I noticed: he used the same Facebook account to talk to both of us. Her story was adding up.

Initially the 15-year-old girl — let’s call her “X” — raised the idea of going to the media with her story. I was reluctant, mostly because of my own negative experiences with media. I had tried to give information about Weiner anonymously and I was quickly outed by Buzzfeed and worried she would suffer a similar fate.

Yes, X was a minor, but would media outlets really care enough to protect this child’s identity? I had serious doubts so I asked if she would go to the local police in her home state of North Carolina. X told me she didn’t want to because she felt that she had been consenting.

I explained to her that at 15, you cannot consent legally for a reason: you are not mentally or emotionally equipped to handle these types of adult decisions. At 15, you cannot grasp the consequences of adult decisions. I wanted X to understand that this wasn’t her fault, she wasn’t to blame, she did nothing wrong. Being targeted by a predator made her the victim; she had been manipulated by a grown man who was a twisted, professional manipulator with very serious issues.

Since I couldn’t convince X to go to police, I tried to go another route and had my therapist call Child Protection Services (CPS) in North Carolina. At the time, I thought it was better to have a third party make the call. I didn’t want to be too involved, even though emotionally, I was very caught up in Weiner’s manipulation of X.

During my childhood I too had been exploited by much older men; it’s something that haunts me to this day. so this situation really hit a nerve. I let X know that CPS might contact her and that if they did, she should be as forthcoming as she was with me. Unfortunately, CPS never contacted her. They told my therapist they didn’t have enough information.

A different approach was taken and the story ended up in the Daily Mail. I was pleased they were responsible enough to blur her face and keep her name out of the story. Weiner immediately tried to label his newest scandal as a hoax, his standard modus operandi. When he accidentally tweeted an inappropriate photo in 2011, he claimed he had been hacked and at first refused to admit that he was even in the photo.

It came out, of course, that it was indeed Weiner and he later resigned from Congress in disgrace. But at the time of his newest, and now third scandal, he had little to lose job-wise, but much to lose as far as his marriage was concerned.

Because even for Huma Abedin, the long-suffering Hillary Clinton stalwart, revelations that hubby Weiner had sexted a 15-year-old and sent out a photo of his own child next to his genitals would likely be a breaking point. And all the more so because exposure of Weiner’s newest depredations — broken by Washington Babylon by me  — came in the summer of 2016 and, Huma must have reasoned, could well hurt boss Hillary’s doomed presidential ambitions. [Editorial note: Washington Babylon scooped the rest of the media on August 11, 2016, the day before founder and CEO Ken Silverstein’s birthday, so Sydney’s exclusive was quite a present for him.]

Indeed, word recently came out that Huma filed for divorce. And who can blame her? The miracle is how it took her to reach that conclusion. sexting a 15 year old combined with the damage he did to Hillary’s campaign altogether managed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The same day Huma filed for divorce, pitiful Anthony was in court pleading guilty to transferring obscene material to a minor. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison and has to register as a sex offender.

At a previous court date Weiner cried, saying, “I have a sickness, but I do not have an excuse.” I personally think he’s using the idea that he has a “sickness” as an excuse.

It’s obvious Weiner wants the general public to pity him, but he dug his own grave. His story is like a Shakespearean tragedy, but too tawdry, dramatic, and absurd to even seem real. But this is reality. And the only real victim in this case is the child he exploited.

If you feel pity for anyone, it should be for her. My only hope is that his guilty plea sets her free and she’s able to let this go and move on and be a kid, have a normal life. She deserves that. And I think if I can pick up the pieces post-scandal and have a normal, happy life, so can she.

Blockbuster: Sydney Leathers Reveals Truth Behind Pervo Anthony Weiner's Twisted Manipulation of 15-Year-Old Victim

In May of 2016 I was celebrating my upcoming college graduation, not knowing my celebration would be short-lived. That same month I started receiving messages on Facebook from a 15-year-old girl who said she had been sexting and Skyping with Anthony Weiner.

Initially, I thought someone was trying to prank me, that there was no way this could be true. Sure, he had been caught sexting plenty of women, but I just didn’t think he would go after a child in that way.

But then I remembered something: around the time of his first scandal that forced him to resign from Congress he had been caught sexting a 17-year-old girl. I don’t recall that particular part of the scandal being a large focus. Not too many people seemed outraged about it and the media didn’t pay much attention to it.

I’m not sure if that’s because 17 is “close enough” to 18, or if people were distracted by the circus sideshow the scandal had become. (Remember the press conference Andrew Breitbart hijacked?) While I was reconsidering whether or not what this 15-year-old was saying to me was plausible, I decided to ask for some sort of proof.

She quickly sent a screenshot of a conversation she was having with Weiner via Facebook messenger. The first thing I noticed: he used the same Facebook account to talk to both of us. Her story was adding up.

Initially the 15-year-old girl — let’s call her “X” — raised the idea of going to the media with her story. I was reluctant, mostly because of my own negative experiences with media. I had tried to give information about Weiner anonymously and I was quickly outed by Buzzfeed and worried she would suffer a similar fate.

Yes, X was a minor, but would media outlets really care enough to protect this child’s identity? I had serious doubts so I asked if she would go to the local police in her home state of North Carolina. X told me she didn’t want to because she felt that she had been consenting.

I explained to her that at 15, you cannot consent legally for a reason: you are not mentally or emotionally equipped to handle these types of adult decisions. At 15, you cannot grasp the consequences of adult decisions. I wanted X to understand that this wasn’t her fault, she wasn’t to blame, she did nothing wrong. Being targeted by a predator made her the victim; she had been manipulated by a grown man who was a twisted, professional manipulator with very serious issues.

Since I couldn’t convince X to go to police, I tried to go another route and had my therapist call Child Protection Services (CPS) in North Carolina. At the time, I thought it was better to have a third party make the call. I didn’t want to be too involved, even though emotionally, I was very caught up in Weiner’s manipulation of X.

During my childhood I too had been exploited by much older men; it’s something that haunts me to this day. so this situation really hit a nerve. I let X know that CPS might contact her and that if they did, she should be as forthcoming as she was with me. Unfortunately, CPS never contacted her. They told my therapist they didn’t have enough information.

A different approach was taken and the story ended up in the Daily Mail. I was pleased they were responsible enough to blur her face and keep her name out of the story. Weiner immediately tried to label his newest scandal as a hoax, his standard modus operandi. When he accidentally tweeted an inappropriate photo in 2011, he claimed he had been hacked and at first refused to admit that he was even in the photo.

It came out, of course, that it was indeed Weiner and he later resigned from Congress in disgrace. But at the time of his newest, and now third scandal, he had little to lose job-wise, but much to lose as far as his marriage was concerned.

Because even for Huma Abedin, the long-suffering Hillary Clinton stalwart, revelations that hubby Weiner had sexted a 15-year-old and sent out a photo of his own child next to his genitals would likely be a breaking point. And all the more so because exposure of Weiner’s newest depredations — broken by Washington Babylon by me  — came in the summer of 2016 and, Huma must have reasoned, could well hurt boss Hillary’s doomed presidential ambitions. [Editorial note: Washington Babylon scooped the rest of the media on August 11, 2016, the day before founder and CEO Ken Silverstein’s birthday, so Sydney’s exclusive was quite a present for him.]

Indeed, word recently came out that Huma filed for divorce. And who can blame her? The miracle is how it took her to reach that conclusion. sexting a 15 year old combined with the damage he did to Hillary’s campaign altogether managed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The same day Huma filed for divorce, pitiful Anthony was in court pleading guilty to transferring obscene material to a minor. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison and has to register as a sex offender.

At a previous court date Weiner cried, saying, “I have a sickness, but I do not have an excuse.” I personally think he’s using the idea that he has a “sickness” as an excuse.

It’s obvious Weiner wants the general public to pity him, but he dug his own grave. His story is like a Shakespearean tragedy, but too tawdry, dramatic, and absurd to even seem real. But this is reality. And the only real victim in this case is the child he exploited.

If you feel pity for anyone, it should be for her. My only hope is that his guilty plea sets her free and she’s able to let this go and move on and be a kid, have a normal life. She deserves that. And I think if I can pick up the pieces post-scandal and have a normal, happy life, so can she.

Updated: My Thoughts on Donald Trump, the NFL and Tom Brady Heading Into Today’s Games, Week III Edition

Donald Trump’s comments about NFL players and the national anthem are so stupid you’d think he’d played football without a helmet and protective gear. Beyond that, and speaking for myself, I love the NFL and hope it is never outlawed or altered in a way that makes it unrecognizable. The sheer beauty and grace of the athletes is unmatched by any other sport, including basketball and futebol, which I love as much.
Furthermore, in all honesty, for anyone honest, Tom Brady should be at best a two ring QB. That’s the most he would have had if the refs hadn’t fucked the Raiders in the tuck rule game; if the Patriots didn’t play in the shitty AFC East and always somehow get an easy schedule on top of divisional games (today vs. Houston. Surprise!); if Pete Carroll wasn’t a brainless twat and ordered Russell Wilson to throw the ball instead of handing it to (too Black) Marshawn Lynch to score the touchdown; if not for Andy Reid’s pathetic clock management in the Super Bowl where the Eagles and Donovan McNabb would otherwise have won (H/t to my brilliant son Gabriel on the Reid thingy, I’d forgotten about that); and if not for the Falcons’ pathetic collapse and some ridiculously bad luck.
 
Brady’s playoff stats and SB performance are generally worse than his regular season. He’s not a clutch performer, that proves, and is not close to being a Top Five NFL QB. (Peyton Manning and Joe Montana, among others, immediately spring to mind.) And on top of all that Brady and his coach and team are confirmed cheaters and, worst of all, Brady has never acknowledged it. This asshole is supposed to be a role model to children (sort of like me, for fuck’s sake) but instead he continues to lie and evade responsibility.
 
It kind of reminds me of Hillary Clinton. And Brady and his hillbilly coach are friends with Donald Trump, which alone should make him an outcast. Plus he typically has some dumbass haircut and he’s married to Giselle, the least attractive Brazilian model on the planet (and notably white, like the racist Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins fan base), and he adheres to some pathetic vegan (or worse) diet.
 
He’s a dirty little liar and overrated. And that’s beyond argument.
[Update: Great job by Deshaun Watson under pressure. Bill O’Brien is a fucking moron. Spike the ball? What are you planning to do with that timeout? I’d like to spike the ball up O’Brien’s fat ass. Still, how do you almost lose to the Texans, even with help from the refs and when the Texan defense doesn’t put pressure on Hitler? Haha, anyway, I’m going out for a bike ride, what a great day. Can’t wait to see the Redskins pummel the Raiders, though that is one of my favorite teams.

Updated: My Thoughts on Donald Trump, the NFL and Tom Brady Heading Into Today's Games, Week III Edition

Donald Trump’s comments about NFL players and the national anthem are so stupid you’d think he’d played football without a helmet and protective gear. Beyond that, and speaking for myself, I love the NFL and hope it is never outlawed or altered in a way that makes it unrecognizable. The sheer beauty and grace of the athletes is unmatched by any other sport, including basketball and futebol, which I love as much.
Furthermore, in all honesty, for anyone honest, Tom Brady should be at best a two ring QB. That’s the most he would have had if the refs hadn’t fucked the Raiders in the tuck rule game; if the Patriots didn’t play in the shitty AFC East and always somehow get an easy schedule on top of divisional games (today vs. Houston. Surprise!); if Pete Carroll wasn’t a brainless twat and ordered Russell Wilson to throw the ball instead of handing it to (too Black) Marshawn Lynch to score the touchdown; if not for Andy Reid’s pathetic clock management in the Super Bowl where the Eagles and Donovan McNabb would otherwise have won (H/t to my brilliant son Gabriel on the Reid thingy, I’d forgotten about that); and if not for the Falcons’ pathetic collapse and some ridiculously bad luck.
 
Brady’s playoff stats and SB performance are generally worse than his regular season. He’s not a clutch performer, that proves, and is not close to being a Top Five NFL QB. (Peyton Manning and Joe Montana, among others, immediately spring to mind.) And on top of all that Brady and his coach and team are confirmed cheaters and, worst of all, Brady has never acknowledged it. This asshole is supposed to be a role model to children (sort of like me, for fuck’s sake) but instead he continues to lie and evade responsibility.
 
It kind of reminds me of Hillary Clinton. And Brady and his hillbilly coach are friends with Donald Trump, which alone should make him an outcast. Plus he typically has some dumbass haircut and he’s married to Giselle, the least attractive Brazilian model on the planet (and notably white, like the racist Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins fan base), and he adheres to some pathetic vegan (or worse) diet.
 
He’s a dirty little liar and overrated. And that’s beyond argument.
[Update: Great job by Deshaun Watson under pressure. Bill O’Brien is a fucking moron. Spike the ball? What are you planning to do with that timeout? I’d like to spike the ball up O’Brien’s fat ass. Still, how do you almost lose to the Texans, even with help from the refs and when the Texan defense doesn’t put pressure on Hitler? Haha, anyway, I’m going out for a bike ride, what a great day. Can’t wait to see the Redskins pummel the Raiders, though that is one of my favorite teams.

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.

Ken Burns: Worse for Vietnam than Agent Orange, Part Two

Yesterday we started explaining why Ken Burns’s new documentary on Vietnam rewrites history and totally sucks. Today we conclude the saga.

So what happened to cause the war? Taking a page from David Halberstam, the train of events is fairly simple.

The Second World War ended with the Democrats solidly in power and big business mortified by the prospect of a postwar alliance with the Soviet Union, whose labor organizing and anti-racism efforts were quite strong and made manifest in the Communist Party USA. [Note from editor: At the time people should have known that Uncle Joe Stalin and the USSR and the CPUSA were bad news, to put it mildly, but a lot didn’t because Stalin pretty much beat the Nazis and Communism and its adherents promoted some great ideas.] And so, once Harry Truman replaced Franklin Roosevelt, Corporate America and the right wing of the Democratic Party created a large and complex propaganda machine about the Red Menace that was intended to neutralize Communists and their progressive domestic campaigns.

Next, as burnt offerings, many career civil servants were blacklisted with Truman’s loyalty oaths. Then Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy, knowing a ticket to the limelight when they saw it, changed tack ever so slightly and said that the Democrats had been engaged in Soviet espionage since before the war.

Simultaneously, Chiang Kai Shek, one of the worst military leaders of the last century, was finally defeated by Mao, who promptly declared the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. This, combined with Soviet expansion into postwar Eastern Europe, was used by Republicans to “prove” the Democrats were “soft” on Communism and conspiring with the enemy. (Sort of reminds you of today but both parties are actually guilty of conspiring with Russians, but rich individuals, not the Russian government.)

And so from 1946 onward a self-propelling lie machine, created by Harry Truman et al, was let loose on the American public and politicians who didn’t know any better. As a result, the two parties engaged until 1991 in a perpetual game of militarist one-upmanship that was based around seeing which politician could posture the most hawkishly in public while in private setting up killer deals for big business at the expense of the formerly colonized and just about everyone else. In this sense any post-colonial country seeking to gain independence from the Western imperial system was doomed to be tarred as Communist even if they actually weren’t interested in Leninism, i.e Mohammad Mosaddegh in Iran.

Burns and David Koch (see previous story for why that’s relevant) leave all of this out. Instead of discussing one of the most significant journalism scoops in American history, which led to a president’s resignation from office over trying to further conceal the original lie, we get a banal hosanna to an American fantasia that never existed. Daniel Ellsberg was not even interviewed for this pathetic Burnsumentary. 

We are presented, on a Koch-branded platter with faux-solemnity, a retread of Cold War myths about international Communism that have a certain spin [Editor’s comment: and perhaps quasi-truth, though I haven’t watched any of this epic shit show nor do I intend to. I’d rather watch Burns’s series on Jazz while basting my own head in Agent Orange and slow-roasting it in a gas range.] to make them more palatable and believable.

And even here we have more lies! What Burns defines as “Communism” is in fact the absolute opposite of what the Soviet Union and the ruling party were all about by 1945. What Burns calls “Communism,” an ever-expanding internationalist current that cynically exploited the national liberation aspirations of the post-colonial world (the Orientalist racism about the wily red Asians is pretty thick here), is a strange amalgam of Leon Trotsky’s ideas about a “Permanent Revolution” and Rosa Luxemburg’s views on national liberation, both of which Stalin and the Communist Parties worldwide had totally repudiated well before Hitler invaded Poland. [Editor’s note: I have no idea whether that is accurate or not.]

In essence, the Vietnam War and the Cold War that spawned it were nothing more or less than a fantastic publicity campaign launched against Americans about an enemy that did not really exist, an ideology that did not exist, and which placed innocent peasants and workers on the firing line to be shot by American GIs who had been told the person in the the sights of their rifles were red Commie monsters. [Editor’s note: This is largely accurate but I’d question a few assertions.]

Of course, the person who bore a major responsibility for all this was David Koch’s father, Fred, and the John Birch Society that peddled it.

And this is just in the first fifteen minutes of the first episode! Our tax dollars at work, folks!

Here’s What’s Going On With Washington Babylon: Keep reading, there’s actual informed commentary here about oligarchs and the media

OK, after a long gap-like chasm and lacuna the size of the Grand Canyon, Washington Babylon, America’s leading news source, has started publishing a bit more the past week. Why, you’re wondering, were we silent for so long? I’ll tell you why.

First, 2017 has been a bad year for almost everyone, especially people who died or had their lives ruined by a natural disaster or some other pitfall. My 2017 has been worse. Far worse. I’m the type that suffers in silence so this will come as a surprise but if we’re going to accept responsibility and not blame others for your misfortune, I need to come clean: the universe fucked me, as did Bernie Sanders. But “You Will Not Fuck me, Shithead Universe,” that’s my signature trademark motto. Every day in every way I’m getting better and better. That’s also my signature trademark motto.

Second, Washington Babylon sort of lost its way with the election of Hermann Trūmp. (Disclosure: Andrew Stewart and I discussed this. The following is partly based on him telling me that.) We were expecting Hillary Clinton to win and we had piles of ammo on her and could have written effortlessly about her during her entire Reich. Her loss affected me deeply, possibly more than anyone, including poor, pitiful Hillary herself.

Relatedly, if Hillary would have won we would have had free reign to run amok. The whole press was in the tank for her and still would be. Start wars, rob the poor to funnel money to the rich, keep tossing millions of young African-Americans into prison, promote some bullshit healthcare plan — the media would have given its blessing and encouragement.

But with Herr Trump, the media has become oppositional, which is what its role should be. So reporters have written a ton of anti-Trump stories that we would have been happy to do, and we sort of got orphaned. (Until now that I figured all this shit out.) The problem, or course, is that the media is reflexively hostile to Trump — except when he bombs Afghanistan or Syria, or threatens to invade Venezuela or nuke North Korea into the pre-Stone Age, which of course is “presidential” — and a lot of what has been published is pure garbage, or, to coin a term, “Fake News.”

Trump’s policies are mostly if not entirely awful, his failure to immediately and forcefully condemn his base (i.e., the Charlottesville White Supremacists, Nazis, and assorted stooges who thought it was cool to join them), and his comportment (let’s just say he reads and speaks and Tweets below his grade level) deserve scrutiny and condemnation. But so much of what’s published in the media — from the New Yorker and the New York Times on up — is pure drivel. So we’re fucked because there’s a ton of copy about Trump, some if it really excellent, so it’s hard to find anything fresh or original (and true) to write. But trust me, we’ve got some shit up our sleeve.

Lastly, and this is not exactly why we haven’t been publishing but it’s a contributing factor, we live in a new and deeper Age of Oligarchy than ever before. Sure, the American Revolution replaced the horrible British Crown with a native, corrupt ruling class, and the Gilded Age sucked and so has everything pretty much since 1974, but this is worse.

I was talking to a filmmaker or two about me making a pile of cash by putting together a documentary or film or TV series [note: will be available on Netflix and Amazon] on this topic, namely the outrageous, unprecedented power of our native (and a few foreign) oligarchs, and one of the problems has been a fear of lawsuits. One person told me, “Look, this isn’t just about one oligarch, it’s about a bunch of them, it’s not possible to do this without getting sued.”

I see the point. Because I wanted to write about (for the film and here at Washington Babylon) and expose a lot of powerful oligarchs and their enablers, and any one of these bipartisan cretins (several who I’ve been paid by) could have sued: Peter Thiel, Pierre Omidyar, George Soros, Jeff Bezos, William Browder (renounced his U.S. citizenship, apparently for tax purposes but hasn’t kept him from relentlessly promoting Russiagate, even though he was for Vlad Putin before he was against him), Alexander Mirtchev (an enabler; worked closely with Kazakh dictatorship while accumulating massive wealth in the U.S.), Peter Singer, Leonard “Len” Blavatnik, Denis Katsyv (I’ve never met him or taken money from him but I actually sort of like him because he’s gotten fucked in the Russiagate story), Reed Hastings, Warren Buffett, Carlos Slim, Mark Zuckerberg, the guy who owns Twitter — the list goes on and on.

There’s also the shit bag British tycoon who supported Brexit and Trump, and who secretly funded the unknown and unloved American Media Institute [note to IRS: I worked there for a short period and I can assure you its 990s should be examined; like shooting ducks in a barrel]. The AMI, as no one knows it, is or was run by the journalistic grifter-in-chief Richard Miniter, who was already driving a cherry red convertible vintage Mercedes or BMW before he started overseeing the AMI’s funds. I’ll be writing about him in-depth soon.

Anyway, we’ll be writing about all these folk soon, and a lot more. But I’m not making any promises about frequency. I was thinking of shutting down this esteemed publication if I couldn’t start publishing four or five items a day, like a real blog. But fuck that, that’s an artificially imposed thingy. We’ll publish when we can. We’re also looking for great writers — or good ones — or bad ones — to contribute for free, and for a handout from an Oligarch so we can publish more and pay our writers, and especially me, a living wage.

So that’s it for now. And you know what’s sort of cool? I wrote this in an hour while sitting at an outdoor cafe near my oceanfront apartment in Miami. Fuck Irma and Maria. We’re still standing.

Louisiana Politricking, Dirty Tricks and Senator David Vitter

In 2010, during the Louisiana Senate race between then-Democratic Congressman Charlie Melancon and Republican incumbent David Vitter, I was approached by a political operative with a tip that Vitter may have engaged in a long-term relationship with a prostitute working under the alias of London Rayne.

Within a few weeks I was able to make contact with London who denied knowing Vitter, much less servicing him. But after gaining her trust, London told me about the industryin New Orleans and Louisiana, which led me down a six-year path researching relationships between politicians and prostitutes as well as the nature of the sex industry in Louisiana.

What I discovered was a pattern of women whose lives were destroyed by their relationships with male politicians. In fact, a disturbing number of these women died at an early age under mysterious circumstances. Politricking,as Jeanette Maier, the former madam of the infamous New Orleans Canal Street Brothel, refers to it, is a dangerous proposition for working girls.  

Dead ends and a new twist to an old story

Last year Senator Vitter decided to run for governor and was favored to win easily. By early Spring I was getting a stream of tips about his alleged involvement with prostitutes, which was first reported back in 2007 by Hustler, which revealed his ties to the “DC Madam,” Debra Jean Palfrey.

While Vitter denied having anything to do with prostitutes in Louisiana and didn’t actually admit to using Palfrey’s escort service, he apologized for having committed a serious sinand seamlessly continued his political career.

I decided to run down every lead to see if any of it was legit or if it all was rumors spread by dirty tricks operators, a time-honored tradition in Louisiana. One story I chased down involved Vitters admitted ties to Palfrey. Unlike Vitter, who suffered no real consequences for his actions, Palfrey was charged with running a prostitution ring after the Vitter story broke and committed suicide awaiting prosecution.

Vitter had allegedly favored one of Palfreys escorts named Paula Neebles, but when I tracked her down —  shed changed her name after the DC Madam scandal broke she denied having ever met Vitter.

A series of other tips went nowhere, but I finally got more solid information when I was able to track down an old story regarding a former prostitute named Wendy Ellis with the help of a local private investigator, Danny Denoux.

Id been told by another former escort that Wendy who formerly went by the last name of Cortez and who had been the focus of the famous 2007 Hustler story that originally outed Vitters dalliances with prostitutes had had a long-term relationship with Vitter that resulted in a pregnancy. She agreed to a video interview in which she claimed she not only was impregnated by Vitter but she had put the child up for adoption despite his plea for her to have an abortion.  

Vitter declined an interview request made through his lawyer, Jim Garner,  who threatened legal action against me if I published the interview with Wendy. Meanwhile, Vitter hired a private eye to compile a dossier on me and try to discredit my reporting.

I ran the story anyway because I felt it was important to expose the Senators hypocrisy. Vitter has close ties to the Louisiana Family Forum, a powerful state lobbying organization that promotes a family valuesreligious agenda. In fact, the president of the LFF, Gene Mills, absolved Vitter of his alleged sins during the 2007 scandal, claiming the Senator had repented and “sought forgiveness, reconciliation and counseling.

Shortly afterwards, Vitter earmarked $100,000 for LFF in a federal spending bill. (The money was later stripped out of the bill as it moved through congress.)

A shadow of doubt

Critical elements of Wendys story had changed after she originally spoke with Hustler. Hustler told the story they wanted to tell, not what I actually told them,she explained when I asked about the inconsistencies.  

The story Wendy told me dates, time frames, namesmatched up nearly precisely with the account told to me by my original confidential source,  the former escort and friend of Wendy’s. (She said she and Wendy had not spoken since 2006 and repeatedly asked me to put her in touch, but I refused until I was able to interview Wendy and see if their stories matched up.)

I believed the story Wendy told me in the interview was mostly accurate and deserved public exposure, but it was greeted with skepticism by many local and national outlets when I published it. However, key parts were subsequently corroborated when Kevin Allman, publisher of the New Orleans weekly magazine The Gambit, interviewed a barber who remembered seeing Vitter coming and going from the very same French Quarter residence where Wendy claimed they would meet.

The barber, Ricky Ketchum, had a shop caddy-corner to Wendys apartment. He confirmed seeing Vitter at the residence during precisely the period Wendy claimed to have carried on her relationship with him.

Deeper Waters

There was another rumor I was determined to chase down involving Jeanette Maier, the Canal Street Madame. In a 2008 radio interview with New Orleans journalist Jeff Croure, Maier suggested that she had serviced David Vitter during the Canal Street brothel days, the mid-1990’s.

When I called Jeanette in 2010 she was reluctant to speak about Vitter though she did discuss being repeatedly paid for services by the current Louisiana Lieutenant Governor, Billy Nungesser. But last year Maier told me on camera that she had sent three escorts to a party on St. Charles Avenue in 1996. Two of the escorts came back from the party and told Jeanette they had sex with Vitter, who was a Louisiana state representative at the time. One of those escorts was then 27-year-old Michelle Mosgrove.

Jeanette on St Charles party from Jason Berry on Vimeo.

One year later, on August 7, 1997, Mosgrove turned up dead from an alleged self-inflicted gun shot wound to the head. Her body was discovered on a luxury boat, the Aera,” docked in Biloxi, Mississippi. Her death was ruled a suicide. 

The boat was owned by a man named Willam Andre Droulia, who went by the nickname Big Dor Big Daddy.Big D was a well known figure among New Orleans escorts, particularly those that worked in the French Quarter, where he resided. Acquaintances said he lived a chaotic, violent life, and had at least one brush with the law involving his reported prolific drug use. My sources told me Mosgrove was a favorite escort of Big Ds and that she considered him her sugar daddy.”    

Five sources I spoke to who knew Mosgrove, including Wendy Ellis, all doubted the official story of suicide and suspected foul play. When I asked why someone would have wanted her dead, they unanimously agreed it was because she knew too much and couldnt keep her mouth shut.” 

For example, several of the sources said Michelle may have witnessed the murder of an escort on the second floor of a Bourbon Street club owned by a Droulia associate known as Jack. According to sources, Jack who I have been unable to identify was a former officer with the New Orleans Police Department and was the proprietor of the escort service Wendy Ellis worked for when she claimed Vitter was her client.

(Incidentally, police involvement with prostitution in New Orleans is nothing new.)

Murky waters   

Through a public records request, I obtained the Biloxi Police Departments official report of Mosgrove’s alleged suicide  but the names of at least two and possibly three witnesses had been redacted. The report states that the owner of the boat (presumably Big DaddyDroulia) found the victim inside his boat with an aparent (sic) gunshot wound to the head.Four supplemental pages marked as narrativewere withheld by the Biloxi police.

There are a number of possible links between Vitter and Droulia, which are of interest here. For example, Droulia was an heir to the Helis Oil and Gas Company, an entity whose interests Senator Vitter has championed throughout his political career. That includes a recent battle Helis has been waging with citizens of St. Tammany to allow the company to frack for natural gas in the parish.  

More alarmingly, Wendy Ellis told me that approximately a year after Michelle was found dead on the Aera, she was on the boat with Vitter and Droulia and asked Vitter if he knew that Michelle had died on it. Vitter, she said, told her that he was on board that night and fled the scene to avoid a scandal, which raises the possibility that his name was redacted from the Biloxi police report.  

Vitter refused my request for an interview on the matter and I have not been able to locate a second witness to substantiate Elliss claims. Droulia is deceased and I have been unable to identify the redacted names of any of the witnesses in the police report.   

I cant confirm Wendys account and while it’s possible she’s lying, there are a lot of uncertainties about the case.  There are clearly grounds to believe that Michelles death while on board a boat with a man known for violence and cocaine abuse was not a suicide. Its also hard to understand why the Biloxi police continue to withhold information about Michelles death, particularly the names of witnesses.

In lieu of an interview, I publicly asked David Vitter five questions regarding Mosgrove’s death:

1/ What, if any, was the nature of your relationship with William Andre Droulia in the 1990’s and/or with Helis Oil and Gas?

2/ Did you know Michelle Mosgrove and were you a client of hers? Did you (or someone else) pay her so you could have sex with her at a party on St. Charles Avenue circa 1996?

3/ Were you ever on the boat, the “Aera”?

4/ Were you ever on the boat, the “Aera”, with Wendy Ellis aka Wendy Cortez?

5/ Do you have any firsthand information about the death of Michelle Mosgrove on December 7, 1997?

I have received no answer to date.

Incidentally, Vitter had a 20-point lead according to some polls in the months leading up to the governors race, before news of his involvement with prostitutes resurfaced. He plummeted in the polls afterwards and was defeated by his Democratic opponent, John Bel Edwards. He will be voluntarily stepping down from the senate in January.

Did Teneo Employee Hack Clinton Emails: Actually, according to Chelsea, it looks like he did

I’m a bit rushed today with some non-journalism business but here is a very little noted Podesta email that is quite remarkable. In it, Chelsea Clinton makes a number of rather stunning allegations. Let’s put them together and then we can add them up:

—Ilya physically saw/caught Justin a couple of days ago reading his bberry and loading the same spyware onto his computer that he loaded onto Bari’s computer

—Multiple people shared with me how upset they were at hearing how Justin referred to my father in the last week – in very derogatory ways widely sadly

—Oscar told my father he knows Justin reads his emails.

—My father was told today of explicit examples at CGI of Doug/ Teneo pushing for – and receiving – free memberships – and of multiple examples of Teneo ‘hustling’ business at CGI.

So here’s what we know from that email, and from other information that’s been previously released, and from a few phone calls I’ve made:

A, Chelsea Clinton does not like Doug Band.

B, Doug Band used to be close to the Clintons but now is very, very angry with the Clintons.

C, Justin Cooper is a former Senior Advisor to President Bill Clinton who helped set up Hillary’s private email system. He doesn;t seem to care much for the Clintons either. Also, oh yeah, he was spying on Clinton Foundation employees and reading their emails.

D, Cooper went on to become a Senior Advisor to Doug Band’s Teneo Holdings.

E, Through Cooper, Doug Band had access to confidential Clinton Foundation emails that could be damaging and embarrassing if he were to choose to reveal them.

F, Vlad Putin might have illicitly obtained Clinton emails. A 400-pound loser might have, too. If Chelsea Clinton is to be trusted, Justin Cooper definitely did.

G, Draw your own conclusions and have a great weekend!

 

 

Elizabeth Warren’s Political Theater

I admit I’m baffled by all the praise being heaped on Senator Elizabeth Warren for her comments to Well Fargo criminal mastermind and CEO, John Stumpf. She “grilled” him, “ripped” him, “excoriated” him, and “eviscerated” him, ran the headlines. Liberals were particularly rapturous in their praise for Warren, who told Stumpf he should resign and called for his company to be investigated and give back its profits.

You know what Warren didn’t do? Anything that really matters.

For those of you who, like me, don’t read the newspaper, here’s how the New York Times describes the Wells Fargo story:

For years, Wells Fargo employees secretly issued credit cards without a customer’s consent. They created fake email accounts to sign up customers for online banking services. They set up sham accounts that customers learned about only after they started accumulating fees…These illegal banking practices cost Wells Fargo $185 million in fines, including a $100 million penalty from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the largest such penalty the agency has issued.

(The CFPB is, of course, Warren’s baby but when it time came to announce its director President Obama shafted her — see image above — in favor of Richard Cordray.)

Wow, $185 million sounds like a lot, but it’s just the cost of doing business for Wells Fargo. And let me explain, very briefly, a little more directly what Stumpf and Wells Fargo did.

First, Stumpf violated the RICO Act, which “focuses specifically on racketeering, and it allows the leaders of a syndicate to be tried for the crimes which they ordered others to do or assisted them in doing.”

Second, Wells Fargo committed stock fraud and manipulation by inflating the bank’s value and share price due to profits from its criminal actions.

Third, Wells Fargo committed credit card fraud. If you or I opened up a bogus credit card in someone else’s name we’d go to prison.

So it’s great, I guess, that Warren was mean to Stumpf but a big fine won’t deter future financial crimes. Stump should have been criminally charged and led out of the Senate hearing in handcuffs. Instead, he’s  going to walk away from Wells Fargo with a few hundred million dollars. The employees who opened up the bogus accounts were fired; some of them, and bank executives who were in on this racketeering scheme, should be prosecuted. (Bank employees who were made scapegoats for the executives — and that’s surely the vast majority of the 5,300 who were canned — should be rehired.)

Warren’s speech made for great TV and wonderful soundbites for her future campaign ads. It might even help get her a position in a Hillary Clinton/Goldman Sachs administration, if Hillary wins, which is her  fondest hope. Then she’ll be able to posture even more without accomplishing much of anything.