AuthorTopic: Who They Are...  (Read 14813 times)

Offline azozeo

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Re: Epstein: Follow the Money
« Reply #165 on: July 13, 2019, 11:16:07 AM »
If you want to know the truth...

Real Hedge-Fund Managers Have Some Thoughts on What Epstein Was Actually Doing
Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer. Photos: Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Long before Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty to prostitution charges in Florida more than a decade ago, his fellow Palm Beach resident and hedge-fund manager Douglas Kass was intrigued by the local gossip about his neighbor.

“I’m hearing about the parties, hearing about a guy who’s throwing money around,” says Kass, president of Seabreeze Partners Management. While stories about young girls swarming Epstein’s waterfront mansion and the sex parties he hosted for the rich and powerful were the talk of the town, Kass was more focused on how this obscure person, rumored to be managing billions of dollars, had become so wealthy without much of a track record.

Kass was well-connected on Wall Street, where he’d worked for decades, so he began to ask around. “I went to my institutional brokers, to their trading desks and asked if they ever traded with him. I did it a few times until the date when he was arrested,” he recalls. “Not one institutional trading desk, primary or secondary, had ever traded with Epstein’s firm.”

When a reporter came to interview Kass about Bernie Madoff shortly before that firm blew up in the biggest Ponzi scheme ever, Kass told her, “There’s another guy who reminds me of Madoff that no one trades with.” That man was Jeffrey Epstein.

“How did he get the money?” Kass kept asking.

For decades, Epstein has been credulously described as a big-time hedge-fund manager and a billionaire, even though there’s not a lot of evidence that he is either. There appears little chance the public is going to get definitive answers anytime soon. In a July 11 letter to the New York federal judge overseeing Epstein’s sex-trafficking case, Epstein’s attorney offered to provide “sealed disclosures” about Epstein’s finances to determine the size of the bond he would need to post to secure his release from jail pending trial. His brother, Mark, and a friend even offered to chip in if necessary.

Naturally, this air of mystery has especially piqued the interest of real-life, non-pretend hedge-funders. If this guy wasn’t playing their game — and they seem pretty sure he was not — what game was he playing? Intelligencer spoke to several prominent hedge-fund managers to get a read on what their practiced eyes are detecting in all the new information that is coming to light about Epstein in the wake of his indictment by federal prosecutors in New York. Most saw signs of something unsavory at the heart of his business model.

To begin with, there is much skepticism among the hedgies Intelligencer spoke with that Epstein made the money he has — and he appears to have a lot, given a lavish portfolio of homes and private aircraft — as a traditional money manager. A fund manager who knows well how that kind of fortune is acquired notes, “It’s hard to make a billion dollars quietly.” Epstein never made a peep in the financial world.

Epstein was also missing another key element of a typical thriving hedge fund: investors. Kass couldn’t find any beyond Epstein’s one well-publicized client, retail magnate Les Wexner — nor could other players in the hedge-fund world who undertook similar snooping. “I don’t know anyone who’s ever invested in him; he’s never talked about by any of the allocators,” says one billionaire hedge-fund manager, referring to firms that distribute large pools of money among various funds.

Epstein’s spotty professional history has also drawn a lot of attention in recent days, and Kass says it was one of the first things that raised his suspicions years ago. Now 66, Epstein didn’t come from money and never graduated from college, yet he landed a teaching job at a fancy private school (“unheard of,” says Kass) and rose through the ranks in the early 1980s at investment bank Bear Stearns. Within no time, Kass notes, Epstein was made a partner of the firm — and then was promptly and unceremoniously ousted. (Epstein reportedly left the firm following a minor securities violation.) Despite this “squishy work experience,” as Kass puts it, at some point after his quick exit, Epstein launched his own hedge fund, J. Epstein & Co., later renamed Financial Trust Co. Along the way, he began peddling the improbable narrative that he was so selective he would only work with billionaires.

Oddly, Epstein also claimed to do all the investing by himself while his 150 employees all worked in the back office — which Kass says reminds him of Madoff’s cover story. Though it now appears that Epstein had many fewer employees than he claimed, according to the New York Times:

Thomas Volscho, a sociology professor at the College of Staten Island who has been researching for a book on Mr. Epstein, recently obtained [a 2002 disclosure] form, which shows [Epstein’s] Financial Trust had $88 million in contributions from shareholders. In a court filing that year, Mr. Epstein said his firm had about 20 employees, far fewer than the 150 reported at the time by New York magazine.

Given this puzzling set of data points, the hedge-fund managers we spoke to leaned toward the theory that Epstein was running a blackmail scheme under the cover of a hedge fund.

How such a scheme could hypothetically work has been laid out in detail in a thread on the anonymous Twitter feed of @quantian1. It’s worth reading in its entirety, but in summary it is a rough blueprint for how a devious aspiring hedge-fund manager could blackmail rich people into investing with him without raising too many flags.

Kass and former hedge-fund manager Whitney Tilson both emailed the thread around in investing circles and both quickly discovered that their colleagues found it quite convincing. “This actually sounds very plausible,” Tilson wrote in an email forwarding the thread to others.

“He somehow cajoled these guys to invest,” says Kass, speaking of hypothetical blackmailed investors who gave Epstein their money to invest, but managed to keep their names private.

The fact that Epstein’s fund is offshore in a tax haven — it is based in the U.S. Virgin Islands — and has a secret client list both add credence to the blackmail theory.

So what did Epstein do with the money he did have under his management, setting aside the questions of how he got it and how much he had? One hedge-fund manager speculates that Epstein could have just put the client money in an S&P 500 index fund, perhaps with a tax dodge thrown in. “I put in $100 million, I get the S&P 500 minus some fees,” he says, speaking of a theoretical client’s experience. Over the past few decades, the client would have “made a shitload” — as would Epstein. A structure like that wouldn’t have required trading desks or analysts or complex regulatory disclosures.

Kass has kicked around a similar idea: Maybe Epstein just put all the client money in U.S. treasuries — the simplest and safest investment there is, and the kind of thing one guy actually can do by himself.

If the blackmail theory sounds far-fetched, it’s worth keeping in mind that it was also floated by one of Epstein’s victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre. “Epstein … also got girls for Epstein’s friends and acquaintances. Epstein specifically told me that the reason for him doing this was so that they would ‘owe him,’ they would ‘be in his pocket,’ and he would ‘have something on them,’” she said in a court affidavit, according to the investigative series in the Miami Herald that brought the case back to the public’s attention late last year.

In the 2015 filing, Giuffre claimed that Epstein “debriefed her” after she was forced into sexual encounters so that he could possess “intimate and potentially embarrassing information” to blackmail friends into parking their money with him. She also said photographic and video evidence existed — an assertion that looms especially large now that federal investigators have found a trove of images in Epstein’s home safe.


Bernie Madoff school of Flim Flam....... graduate  :evil4:

Note: I modified this post to add HTML tags so it would display properly, Surly1
« Last Edit: July 13, 2019, 01:44:25 PM by Surly1 »
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Offline moniker

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Re: Who They Are...
« Reply #166 on: July 13, 2019, 07:32:22 PM »
Based on what we know so far, the Epstein chronicles is really a variation on that hoary tale Faust in the style of Woody Allen's New York Stories.

Jeffrey, for reasons not yet know, was willing to sell his sole while others who were presented with similar if not as egregious deals were not.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2019, 07:35:49 PM by moniker »

Offline Surly1

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Re: Who They Are...
« Reply #167 on: July 13, 2019, 08:06:48 PM »
Based on what we know so far, the Epstein chronicles is really a variation on that hoary tale Faust in the style of Woody Allen's New York Stories.

Jeffrey, for reasons not yet know, was willing to sell his sole while others who were presented with similar if not as egregious deals were not.

Not sure we have seen the like of Epstein, who has already gone through several lives. For all intents and purposes, while indulging his taste for pedophilia, has for all intents and purposes run a honeypot operation spanning decades and including high rollers and the odd president. Acosta said he was waved off in the plea deal, being told that Epstein "belonged to intelligence." Whose intelligence, n o one is saying. And whether or not that is true, no one knows. Yet.

As someone who is quoted in one of the copious stories written, "It's hard to make a billion dollars in secret." Yet no one in hedge find circles knew of him, had traded with him, or knew anyone who had. Yet someone was paying for his lifestyle. Billionaires and politicos buying decades of silence?

Read the thread I posted earlier by Quantian that lays out a likely scenario for Epstein's scheme that ticks off all that we know to be true.

This is not a garden variety pedo, if such a thing exists. Pedophiles deserve the coolest, slowest-cooking reaches of hell such that their suffering might be amplified. This is a man who ran a network for high rollers and the connected. Whether or not we will ever know the "truth," or what passes for it, remains very doubtful. We've seen this act before-- remember the Franklin affair and cover-up? Those bastards literally got away with murder. the investigators got steamrollered with money, and even the FBI got involved on the part of those accused: they did stop an America’s Most Wanted series which featured the Franklin case. Most charges were dismissed.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2019, 07:29:38 AM by Surly1 »
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Welcome the harvest sown in the wake the USA PATRIOT Act and follow-on legislation, by those who want to offer aid and succor to white supremacists while criminalizing opposition to them. The families of Eric Garner, tamer rice, Sandra Bland, et al were not asked for comment.

Two senators want antifa activists to be labeled ‘domestic terrorists.’ Here’s what that means.

Unidentified Rose City Antifa members beat up Andy Ngo, an independent journalist, on June 29 in Portland, Ore. Two Republican senators have introduced a resolution that would classify antifa protesters as "domestic terrorists." (Moriah Ratner/Getty Images)

By Marisa Iati
July 20 at 4:16 PM
Two Republican senators have introduced a nonbinding resolution that would label antifascists — known as antifa — as “domestic terrorists,” doubling down against radical activists who have drawn criticism from conservatives and President Trump.

“Antifa are terrorists, violent masked bullies who ‘fight fascism’ with actual fascism, protected by Liberal privilege,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said in a statement. “Bullies get their way until someone says no. Elected officials must have courage, not cowardice, to prevent terror.”

Hina Shamsi, director of the national security project at the American Civil Liberties Union, told The Washington Post that she opposes labeling groups as domestic terrorists.

“It is dangerous and overly broad to use labels that are disconnected (from) actual individual conduct,” she said. “And as we’ve seen how ‘terrorism’ has been used already in this country, any such scheme raises significant due process, equal protection and First Amendment constitutional concerns.”

The resolution, which also is sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), would not change U.S. law. It cites antifa activists occupying the road outside an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office and “doxing” ICE officials by posting their personal information online. The senators also pointed to conservative journalist Andy Ngo, who in June was left bloodied by antifa activists in Portland, Ore.

Conservatives have said antifa activists are a dangerous force. On Wednesday, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) sent a letter to Attorney General William P. Barr, asking him to designate antifa activists as domestic terrorists and denounce the attack on Ngo.

Conservative media has already labeled antifa activists as terrorists. Fox News contributors Laura Ingraham and Michael Knowles have referred to them as such, while National Review magazine called them “violent thugs.”

Antifa protests have sometimes resulted in violence, such as during the conflict with white nationalists in Charlottesville in 2017. After the two groups clashed, Trump asked whether “the alt-left,” a term conservatives have used for a violent segment of left-wing activists, felt guilty.

Earlier this month, another potential clash was defused in Washington when a group of antifa activists planned a counterprotest against a conservative group. D.C. police turned out in force to prevent any conflict.

Others have defended antifa activists, saying they are protecting people from potentially violent far-right groups like the Proud Boys, according to Vox.

Although often referenced as a monolith, “antifa” is not one organization, but a loosely linked collection of groups, networks and individual people who support aggressive opposition to activists on the far right. And this is why the senators’ resolution and other efforts to label antifa activists as terrorists raises concerns.

Under the Patriot Act, a group commits domestic terrorism by committing crimes dangerous to human life that seem meant to intimidate the public, influence government policy by coercion or affect the government’s conduct by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.

Domestic terrorism is not a specific federal crime, but acts of domestic terrorism are charged under individual laws. The FBI classifies domestic terrorism into four categories: racially motivated, anti-government, environmental or abortion-related. The agency arrested 120 suspects in domestic terrorism investigations in 2018.

Designating a group as a domestic terrorist organization expands law enforcement’s ability to investigate it. The label also means that police can not only investigate a specific suspect, but also look into groups that person affiliates with, Neal Katyal, a Georgetown University law professor and former national security adviser, told NPR.

Similar concerns may be the reason the federal government does not make public an official list of domestic terrorist groups, Jerome Bjelopera, a specialist in organized crime and terrorism, wrote in a Congressional Research Service report. The government does include domestic and international terrorists on its terrorist watch list, Bjelopera wrote.

The lack of a central governing system for antifa creates the risk of wrongly applying the label to all counterprotesters of white supremacists, according to the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that opposes anti-Semitism. This kind of mislabeling, the ADL said, could cause police to violate the civil rights of peaceful activists.

The ADL said antifa activists’ violent tactics are wrong, but that antifa and white supremacists are not equivalent. Far-right extremists have killed hundreds of people in the past decade, the ADL said, while there have been no known antifa-related killings.

“The antifa reject racism but use unacceptable tactics,” the ADL wrote. “White supremacists use even more extreme violence to spread their ideologies of hate, to intimidate ethnic minorities, and undermine democratic norms.”
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Alan Dershowitz Cannot Stop Talking
« Reply #169 on: July 21, 2019, 08:00:41 AM »
Alan Dershowitz Cannot Stop Talking
Accused of a slew of terrible things, the defense has no intention of resting.

Good times: Alan Dershowitz with Jeffrey Epstein at Harvard in 2004. Photo: Rick Friedman/Polaris
. One morning in July, days after his onetime client Jeffrey Epstein was arrested on sex-trafficking charges, the famed attorney Alan Dershowitz was reminiscing as he drove the winding roads of Martha’s Vineyard. “I first came here to defend Ted Kennedy,” he said. “I got a call: ‘The senator has driven off a bridge.’” A woman drowned; the powerful man escaped serious consequences. Dershowitz liked the island and has been coming back for 50 years. He turned his old Volvo station wagon onto an unpaved road leading into the woods, and brought the conversation to his personal crisis. Of all of the many men on the long list of socialites, billionaires, and politicians associated with Epstein, the shadowy financier with a predilection for underage girls, perhaps no name had been tarnished as seriously as Dershowitz’s. As Epstein’s lawyer, he had helped him to thwart prosecutors; as his houseguest, he was accused of enthusiastically joining in Epstein’s alleged sexual abuse.

“It’s a horrible thing to be accused like this,” Dershowitz said as the gravel crunched beneath his tires. In the proceedings of a federal civil lawsuit brought by two women, Dershowitz has called the allegations “vicious lies.” In combative media appearances, he has alleged he was the target of a complex extortion plot, coordinated by the lawyer of his accusers, the equally renowned attorney David Boies. “I know the truth,” Dershowitz told me. “I know that I am a victim of a serious crime, a crime of perjury.” For years, the legal saga had been mostly ignored outside the tabloids. Then Epstein’s shocking arrest jolted it to life. Now, Dershowitz was howling into a whirlwind, trying to prove to the world that he hadn’t done the indefensible.

Dershowitz led me into his summer house, which is crowded with art — vintage political posters in the stairwell, Roy Lichtenstein over the couch — and mementos of his life in the courtroom and at Harvard University, where he was a professor at the Law School until he retired a few years ago. In the sunny dining room, which looked out on the pool, a large stack of spreadsheets was waiting on the table. They were a detailed breakdown, Dershowitz said, of his whereabouts and activities during the years his primary accuser, a former member of Epstein’s entourage named Virginia Giuffre, says that Dershowitz had sex with her when she was a teenager in New York, Palm Beach, and other locales. “Every single one of those days is accounted for,” he said. On August 1, 1999, for instance, the spreadsheets say he stayed on the Vineyard and had a meeting with a certain “Prince Bandar.” (Dershowitz later clarified it wasn’t the famous Saudi prince.)

After a few minutes, Dershowitz’s wife, Carolyn Cohen, a neuropsychologist, and his grown son, Elon, a film producer, joined us at the table. For the next few hours, Dershowitz presented his defense, with Cohen acting as his co-counsel, handing him papers. “I want to be as much a part of it as I can be,” Cohen said, “because first of all, it makes me feel less helpless. I think it’s so outrageous.” From time to time, Dershowitz would step out of the room to call his lawyer. He told me that the next day he was scheduled to have a long phone call with the New Yorker writer Connie Bruck, who was nearing the end of a yearlong investigative profile. “The story is designed to destroy my career,” Dershowitz said. It was quite possible, however, that the deed had already been done.

Dershowitz, now 80, is his generation’s answer to Clarence Darrow, the legendary “Attorney for the Damned.” He was nice to have on your side if you were innocent, but his real specialty was representing the despicably guilty. During his heyday, which coincided with the golden era of the celebrity lawyer, he was a recognizable face — bookish glasses, mustache, big red bushy hair — in the middle of countless front-page crimes stories. He represented the junk-bond king Michael Milken, the biggest crook on Wall Street in the 1980s. He was part of the “dream team” of attorneys that defended O.J. Simpson. When I visited his downstairs bathroom, I noticed it was decorated with cheeky photos: he and Leona Helmsley on the cover of this magazine; O.J. breaking free on the gridiron; the accused wife-poisoner Claus von Bülow, grinning in medieval-style stocks. (His victory in the von Bülow case was made into a film, Reversal of Fortune, which was co-produced by Elon.)

Dershowitz no longer resembles the man he was when he was younger. The mustache is gone, his hair is now gray and close-cropped. Under personal attack, his trademark zeal has veered into something more uncontrolled — a feral defensiveness. A few days after our meeting, he would publish an online essay preemptively attacking Bruck’s unpublished article and accusing New Yorker editor David Remnick of ordering up a “hit piece” aimed at “silencing my defense of President Trump, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and the State of Israel.” (Remnick declined to comment.) He has been perhaps inadvisably willing to talk, and talk, and talk, answering every request for comment (including mine). Dershowitz portrays the women accusing him as mere money-hungry instruments of his nefarious — male — enemies. It is not a strategy that makes him appear particularly sympathetic, and he knows that, but he really can’t seem to help himself.

“The new standard is that sexual offenses are so heinous that even innocence is not a defense,” Dershowitz said. “I’m not supposed to say she’s lying because that’s a political sin. But there’s never been a case of greater proof of innocence.”

As for Boies, the supposed mastermind of his misery, Dershowitz is intent on fighting a reputational battle to the death. Last night, on Fox News, he accused his nemesis of having “an enormous amount of chutzpah to attack me and challenge my perfect, perfect sex life.” He declared his faithfulness to his wife, before proclaiming: “I challenge David Boies to say under oath he’s only had sex with one woman.” (Boies told me: “This is simply more evidence of how desperate Mr. Dershowitz is to distract attention from the evidence of his misconduct.”)

With Robert Trivers and Larry Summers at Harvard in 2004. Photo: Rick Friedman/Polaris

The story of Dershowitz’s own reversal of fortune began on the Vineyard in the summer of 1996. A family friend, Lynn Forester de Rothschild, he said, invited him to a party for her husband, Lord Rothschild, where she introduced him to Jeffrey Epstein. “She said, ‘I have this friend, he really would like to meet you,’” Dershowitz said. He said he found Epstein enthralling. He appeared to be more than just another rich guy. Like Dershowitz, Epstein was from Brooklyn, and he liked to discuss big ideas. He considered himself a man of science. “He was feisty, he was utterly politically incorrect,” Dershowitz said. “He was interesting to be with.”

Soon after their first meeting, Dershowitz recalled, Epstein called him up and said that another friend of his, the billionaire Leslie Wexner, was having a birthday party. Wexner, who owned apparel brands the Limited and Victoria’s Secret, had a tight and mysterious relationship with Epstein, who managed his money. Instead of presents, Wexner had asked each of his guests to bring the smartest person he or she had met that year. Epstein picked Dershowitz. He flew him out to Ohio on a private jet. “Who was at the birthday party?” Dershowitz said. “Shimon Peres, Senator John Glenn, and the then-owner of Sotheby’s.” Their social connection deepened when Epstein started hanging around Harvard. Epstein opened an office near the school, gave it millions, and hosted seminars that brought together academics from different disciplines.

“By the time I got to know him, I had already represented a lot of very, very wealthy people,” Dershowitz said. “I was much more interested in his quirky mind.”

“It turns out to be a lot quirkier than we thought,” Cohen added. She said she was less charmed when she met Epstein. “I just remember thinking he was very screwed up in his attitude about relationships,” she said. “This was a clinical-psychology analysis, that he was really immature, messed up, and I didn’t particularly like him.”

For around a decade, Dershowitz kept casual company with Epstein, who introduced him to his friends, like Ghislaine Maxwell, a British heiress who acted as his right hand, and Prince Andrew, whom Epstein called “Andy.” (Dershowitz said he and the prince didn’t end up getting along because they disagreed about Israel.) Dershowitz visited Epstein’s mansions in New York and Palm Beach and occasionally accompanied him on his private plane. Dershowitz says these trips were family-oriented. Once, Epstein lent him the Palm Beach home so he could attend a granddaughter’s soccer tournament. Another time, he and his nephew flew down to watch a space launch with another Epstein connection, a top NASA official. He and Cohen once stayed with Epstein on his island in the Caribbean, where they were joined by another Harvard professor and his family.

When Epstein first started to attract media attention around the year 2000, mainly because of his friendship with former president Bill Clinton, Dershowitz served as a character witness for the reclusive financier. He told Vanity Fair that he shared manuscripts of his books with Epstein before they were published and swore that his money was irrelevant. “I would be as interested in him as a friend if we had hamburgers on the boardwalk in Coney Island and talked about his ideas,” he told the magazine. But Dershowitz says their interactions took a sharp turn in 2005, when Epstein faced a local police investigation into his relations with underage girls in Palm Beach and Epstein hired him as a lawyer. Today, Dershowitz claims they were never really friends despite their proximity.

“He was an acquaintance,” he said. “In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t taken the case, but I didn’t see a problem with taking the case. We didn’t have a close, personal relationship.”

The first phase of Epstein’s legal troubles began when the parents of a 14-year-old girl reported to the Palm Beach police that she had been hired to give him a massage and was then molested. Over the next seven months, according to an investigative series in the Miami Herald, detectives identified 21 potential victims. By that time, Epstein had heard rumors about the investigation and had assembled a legal team, including Dershowitz. In a letter, Epstein’s Palm Beach defense lawyer introduced Dershowitz to prosecutors as “a close friend of Mr. Epstein’s.”

Dershowitz now claims his involvement in the case was superficial. “Remember, I’m a legal-lawyer,” he said, saying his role, as an eminent Harvard professor, was limited to providing “big picture” guidance. But the records of the Palm Beach investigation include a letter from Dershowitz that delves into the seamy details, describing the work of Epstein’s private detectives, and questioning the character of one of his accusers. (It related that her social-media posts showed an “apparent fascination with marijuana.”) “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this letter,” Dershowitz said when I showed it to him. He pointed out that it appeared to have been signed on his authorization by Epstein’s local attorney.

While Dershowitz said that he “was occasionally presented with investigative reports,” he contended that he was under the impression that his client’s accusers were mainly adult women. “He was facing charges for having had sexually oriented massages with mostly 18-year-olds and 19-year-olds, but, as he put it, some 17-year-olds ‘slipped through the cracks,’” Dershowitz said. “When I negotiated with the state attorney, the words 14, 15, 16 never came up.” This is hard to believe. When Epstein was indicted in 2006, the headline in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel was: PALM BEACH RESIDENT FACES SOLICITATION CHARGE; BUSINESSMAN ACCUSED OF SEX WITH MINORS.

The state indictment, on just a single count, represented a victory for Epstein’s lawyers. The local police were furious, and they called on the FBI to get involved. To deal with the federal investigation, Epstein hired a bunch of Washington lawyers, including Kenneth Starr, to negotiate with President Bush’s appointees at the Justice Department. Dershowitz was a Democrat, but he remained involved and participated in at least one of the now-notorious meetings between Epstein’s legal team and Alex Acosta, who was then the U.S. Attorney for South Florida. “At that meeting, we had a big-picture negotiation, and I presented my legal theory, which I had worked out very carefully, that there was no federal nexus here,” Dershowitz said. Prosecutors would have to argue that Epstein’s sexual offenses had involved interstate activities. “I said, you’ll never prove that, that this was a state case at bottom, not a federal case,” he said. “It was a very academic presentation.”

Acosta ultimately approved a deal granting immunity from federal charges to Epstein, along with “any potential co-conspirators,” in return for his guilty plea to two felony prostitution charges in state court. Epstein served 13 months in the Palm Beach County jail, in a private wing where Dershowitz visited him on New Year’s Day 2009. The plea bargain was inexplicably lenient. “You can complain that maybe I did too good a job,” Dershowitz would later tell a television news reporter in Florida. “Hey, I’m pleading guilty.” But Acosta’s office failed to properly notify Epstein’s accusers about the terms, in apparent violation of the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act. Years later, the Miami Herald articles about deal would lead to a public outcry, a renewed federal investigation in New York, and Acosta’s ouster from his job as secretary of Labor. But at the time, reaction was muted; few news outlets even covered the plea.

But one group of people were outraged, Epstein’s alleged victims, and that set off a third phase of litigation. The civil lawsuit Jane Doe v. United States of America was filed in 2008 in an effort to invalidate the federal non-prosecution agreement. For six years, though, the case seemed to be going nowhere. Dershowitz moved on to other controversies and published seven books. He says he had little further contact with Epstein, who returned to his mansions and his life as jet-setting libertine. Then, in December 2014, there was a shocking development in the Jane Doe lawsuit. Lawyers representing the alleged victims filed a motion on behalf of an unnamed woman, who turned out to be Virginia Giuffre. She had previously claimed in an interview with the Daily Mail that she had been sexually involved with Epstein as a teenager, after being spotted by Maxwell at Mar-a-Lago, where she worked as a towel girl. Now, in an affidavit, she claimed she had been an underage “sex slave” to Epstein.

In their motion, the pair of attorneys behind the Doe case — a former prosecutor named Bradley Edwards and a retired federal judge, Paul Cassell — claimed that Epstein, for purposes of pleasure and blackmail, had also paid Giuffre to have sex with numerous high-profile individuals, including “prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well-known prime minister and other world leaders.” Her affidavit named two of these “friends and acquaintances” of Epstein: Prince Andrew and Alan Dershowitz. Cassell and Edwards claimed that Dershowitz had a conflict of interest in negotiating a deal that involved immunity for co-conspirators, and it should therefore be invalidated. A judge would later deny the motion and order it stricken from the court record, finding the “lurid details” were “immaterial and impertinent” to the case. But by that time, largely because Prince Andrew was involved, the story was everywhere. (Buckingham Palace denies he committed any wrongdoing.)

“We thought it was comical in the beginning,” Cohen said. “Until we realized people were taking it seriously.” Dershowitz later came to believe that the affidavit was the bait in a carefully planned trap. And he thinks he knows who laid it: David Boies.

I first met Dershowitz last year, when I was working on a profile article about Boies, one of the few attorneys in America who can match his level of public prominence. Boies had had a long and illustrious career in the courtroom — he argued the antitrust case against Microsoft and Al Gore’s side of Bush v. Gore — and a history of taking on worthy causes, like gay marriage, but he was at the nadir of his own scandal over the revelation of his role in covering up the alleged abuses of his longtime client Harvey Weinstein. While he was down, Dershowitz was up, or at least on TV a lot, reveling in his contrarian position on the Russia investigation and visiting the White House to discuss legal strategy with Donald Trump. I knew that Boies and Dershowitz were embroiled in some weird litigation over the Epstein case. A feud between two of the most well-known names of a legal generation — at 78, Boies is two years younger — seemed like ripe material.

When I asked about Boies, Dershowitz invited me right over to his Manhattan apartment, where he described an improbable-sounding conspiracy with Boies at its center. “He’s not a lawyer,” he said. “He’s an extortionist.” The story seemed contorted and impossible to confirm, and I didn’t write about it. But in recent months, Dershowitz has managed to thrust it into public view.

According to Dershowitz’s theory, Giuffre’s allegations were never meant to stand up in court. He argues he was merely a “stalking horse,” meant to provide an embarrassing example to another man: the billionaire Leslie Wexner, whom he had heard Giuffre had also accused. “The decision to name me publicly,” Dershowitz alleges in a recent court filing, “was calculated to send the following message to Wexner: If you don’t want to have happen to you what happened to Alan Dershowitz, you should settle the complaint against you, even though the statute of limitations has long expired.”

At least some portions of his theory have turned out to be true. Although Dershowitz didn’t come to know it until much later, Boies was involved in the Epstein litigation as early as June 2014, six months before Giuffre filed her affidavit in the Doe case. Giuffre’s lawyers asserted that Epstein “lent out” their client to his powerful friends, and they wanted to bring in a heavy hitter. Boies met with Giuffre that July, and decided to represent her for free, with an understanding that his firm might later receive a contingency fee in the event of a financial settlement. He claims, however, that he did not press her to name the other men she was accusing of abuse.

One of Giuffre’s lawyers, Stanley Pottinger, says in an affidavit, that that fall they developed information that Leslie Wexner “was alleged to have had sex with one or more of Mr. Epstein’s girls, including Ms. Giuffre.” He says he informed Boies to make sure this did not present a conflict for his law firm. Boies replied that he knew Wexner only socially, and said his firm would investigate. That December, one of his partners wrote a letter to Wexner, “regarding possible claims against him.” The same month, Giuffre’s other lawyers, down in Florida, publicly filed the affidavit naming Dershowitz.

“It’s exactly the same time,” Dershowitz said. “That cannot be a coincidence.”

The allegations against Wexner were handled more discreetly than those about Dershowitz. Boies had three conversations with Wexner’s lawyers in 2015, after which the allegations were quietly dropped. But Boies has asserted in an affidavit that “no settlement demand was ever made, or even discussed.” Dershowitz asserts that if no money was exchanged, it must be because Giuffre’s allegations were disproved. Neither Wexner’s lawyer nor Boies would comment on the discussions. After Epstein’s arrest, Wexner wrote in a memo to his company employees that he “was NEVER aware of the illegal activity charged in the indictment.” In a legal filing, Dershowitz says that Wexner’s wife and lawyer told him that they viewed the approach from Boies as a “shakedown.”

Boies says that because the motion accusing Dershowitz was made by other lawyers, Edwards and Cassell, he wasn’t even aware that Giuffre was making the claim. Pottinger has said he only told Boies when the motion was filed. “When I informed Mr. Boies,” Pottinger says in his affidavit, “he told me that while he was aware of Mr. Dershowitz’s reputation for running naked on beaches in Martha’s Vineyard and hitting on students and girlfriends of students, he was disappointed to learn of his involvement with someone as young as Virginia.” When I read this sentence to Dershowitz he gave an amused look to his wife and admitted that he has occasionally gone skinny-dipping at a nude beach near his house. But he denied the part about hitting on students.

It seems inconceivable that Boies, a litigator known for his piercing powers of perception, would have been unaware of one of his client’s most explosive claims, and his co-counsels’ plans to detonate them in public. On the other hand, he points out an  obvious logical flaw in Dershowitz’s shakedown theory. “What in the world would lead someone to use Alan Dershowitz as a stalking horse, for heaven’s sake?” Boies said. Whatever else he may be, Dershowitz is no one’s idea of a patsy.

“Boies never targeted Dershowitz,” Pottinger told me. “There’s no way that these two giants would take on each other gratuitously.” He says that Boies questioned the strategy of naming the media-friendly lawyer, saying the inevitable controversy would distract attention from the real quarry, Epstein, and the big issue, human trafficking.

Sure enough, after the affidavit was filed, Dershowitz went on CNN and the Today show, where he attacked Giuffre and predicted her “unethical” lawyers would be disbarred. The “worldwide media rampage,” as Edwards and Cassell later described it, opened the way for the next round of litigation: the defamation cases. Court proceedings are legally privileged, meaning Dershowitz could not sue Giuffre for what she claimed in her affidavit, but his media appearances enjoyed no such immunity. In 2015, citing his comments on TV, Edwards and Cassell sued him for defamation in Florida state court. He suspects that was part of the plan all along.

“They expect me to remain silent in the face of an accusation like that?” Dershowitz said. “It’s a sleazy tactic. That’s the Boies tactic.”

At the time the defamation suit was filed, though, Dershowitz still wasn’t aware that Boies was his opponent. After his Today appearance, he even received a supportive email from a lawyer in the firm of Boies Schiller Flexner, with whom he had worked in the past. “Thank you for your kind words,” Dershowitz wrote back. “I would love your help.” The lawyer, who claims he was unaware of the boss’s role, said he would be willing to represent him in the defamation case. Dershowitz discussed the lawsuit with him and sent along a memo that he describes as “the whole strategy of my defense.” Soon after, the lawyer wrote back, saying the firm had informed him of a conflict, “the nature of which we are not at liberty to discuss.” It wasn’t until later that Dershowitz discovered Boies was representing his accuser. He would file four separate bar complaints, claiming Boies and his firm acted unethically. None of them have resulted in sanctions.

The defamation case gave Giuffre’s attorneys a chance to gather evidence, including Dershowitz’s sworn testimony in a series of depositions. Giuffre claimed to have had sex with Dershowitz on Epstein’s private plane. The lawyers turned up flight manifests that showed the lawyer sometimes flew on it, although there was no record of him and Giuffre on the plane together. They cited testimony from former household employees who said they saw him around when Epstein had girls over to give massages. Dershowitz claimed that, because of the layout of the Palm Beach compound, he was unaware of what Epstein did in his private quarters and admits to receiving just one massage himself, from an older Russian woman named Olga. He has said he kept his underwear on and didn’t enjoy it, a claim met with derision most everywhere except within his family. Elon recalled that years ago, a rough masseuse gave his father a shoulder injury.

“He always, always brings it up, and says, ‘I hate massages,’” Elon said.

By the spring of 2015, as media interest receded, Dershowitz attempted to put his dispute with Giuffre to rest. He reached out to Boies via an attorney named David Stone, who had worked with both of them in the past. They had a series of meetings where Dershowitz tried to convince Boies that he had been wrongly accused. He proposed to show Boies the spreadsheets listing his whereabouts, Stone says in an affidavit, and suggested that Giuffre might be confusing him with another Epstein friend. That fall, he began surreptitiously taping his phone calls with Boies. He has played snippets of the calls for me and other reporters, but they are difficult to interpret out of context. Throughout the process, Stone says, Boies made noncommittal comments that Dershowitz appeared to read too much into, as he held out hope for a retraction.

“Let’s keep trying. We are not THAT far apart,” Dershowitz wrote in a December 2015 email to Boies. He suggested that Giuffre issue a statement reading: “The events at issue occurred approximately 15 years ago when I was a teenager. Although I believed then and continued to believe that AD was the person with whom I had sex, recent developments raise the possibility that this may be a case of mistaken identification.”

Boies was not interested. He claims he told Dershowitz in late 2015 that the firm was “increasingly uncovering evidence” that undermined his denials, including inconsistencies in his travel records. In 2016, the Florida defamation case ended with an undisclosed financial settlement and a joint statement in which Edwards and Cassell said that “it was a mistake to have filed sexual misconduct accusations against Dershowitz.” (The lawyers, who declined to comment, clarified in a subsequent legal filing that they feel their mistake was merely “tactical.”) But Boies was pressing forward with a second defamation lawsuit, between Giuffre and Ghislaine Maxwell, whom she had alleged was also “heavily involved in the illegal sex.”

The Maxwell case allowed Boies to amass an enormous volume of evidence about the activities of Epstein and his associates. He also turned up a second Dershowitz accuser, a former model named Sarah Ransome. She has alleged in a sworn statement that when she was in her 20s, she performed numerous sexual favors for Epstein and had a threesome with another woman and Dershowitz at the New York mansion.

“You meet David Boies, magically you remember that you had sex with Alan Dershowitz,” Dershowitz said bitterly. As an 80-year-old academic, he said some of the stories — threesomes, airplane trysts, group sex in Epstein’s limousine — sounded “so phantasmological.” He recognizes that the #MeToo movement has surfaced numerous accounts of preposterous-sounding sexual misbehavior by prominent and respected men, and almost all of them have turned out to be true. But he swears he is different.

“Mine is the only case, singular, the only one, where I never met the people,” Dershowitz said. “There’s no evidence we’ve ever met, no evidence we were ever in the same place at the same time, ever.” He has sued to unseal evidence filed in the Maxwell defamation case that he predicts will prove damaging to his accusers’ credibility. The record contains emails, he said, from Ransome to a New York Post reporter, in which she purports to possess sex tapes of Hillary Clinton, Richard Branson, and Donald Trump. There are also emails between Giuffre and a tabloid journalist, he said, in which she appears to shape her story to make it more salable as a book. Dershowitz also stresses that there appears to be a discrepancy in Giuffre’s accounts of her age at the time she worked at Mar-a-Lago, meaning she may have been as old as 17 when she met Epstein, which may make a legal distinction, if not a moral one. Constantly, he calls Giuffre a “liar” and worse. Counterpunching is his style as a defense attorney, but his vehemence often turns ugly.

“As a psychologist,” Cohen interjected during one harangue, “one thing that Alan and I have talked about is that people with that kind of horrific background where they really had to resort to their own resources to survive, they learn how to be manipulative.”

“I understand the phenomenon,” Dershowitz replied. “But I’m not going to let somebody get away with falsely accusing me of a horrendous crime, just because I may have some sympathy with what she went through. Maybe she should have some sympathy with what she’s putting me through.”

Boies said that his clients would not be available for comment, but he told me the accusations will withstand Dershowitz’s assaults. “There is no one who ever talked to Virginia Giuffre who does not believe that she is a credible witness,” Boies said. Much of the evidentiary record in the Maxwell defamation case, which was settled in 2016 for an undisclosed sum, is expected to become public soon, after a federal appeals court sided with Dershowitz and others who argued for overturning a sealing order.

Besides the documents that Dershowitz predicts will exonerate him, the record includes much testimony and evidence from Giuffre and supporting witnesses. “Mr. Dershowitz’s misconduct, and his lies about it, are documented in sworn affidavits, sworn depositions, and contemporaneous documents,” Boies said. “I can understand why Mr. Dershowitz wants to distract attention from the facts by talking about me.”

Earlier this year, Boies’s firm filed yet another defamation lawsuit on Giuffre’s behalf, this one against Dershowitz directly. Dershowitz vows to fight it until he is vindicated or he dies. “I’m not going to be made whole until David Boies is imprisoned, disbarred, and discredited,” he said. “I will only be made whole when the world understands that this was a completely made up story for money. Nothing short of that will satisfy me.”

“It is clear to me,” Boies replies, “that Mr. Dershowitz will never be made whole.”

Toward the end of our morning on the Vineyard, Dershowitz stepped out of the room to have yet another crisis-management call with his lawyer. I took the opportunity to ask Cohen how she hoped to see the case between her husband and his accusers resolved.

“My hope, my greatest dream, would be for this to be revealed as really a sinister plot by Boies, and that he gets what’s due to him, and Alan gets totally exonerated,” she said. “And the #MeToo movement pulls back some and becomes a more reasonable, due process-oriented, valuable movement. This alerts us to the dangers of being too fanatical.” The balance of presumption, she said, had tilted too far.

“It’s like, all men are evil.”
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Iowa Neo-Nazi Arrested for Threats to ‘Slaughter’ Jews: Prosecutors
« Reply #170 on: July 25, 2019, 07:25:13 AM »
No, he's not "antifa" either. Just another example of home-grown white supremacist hate mongers the the permanent right-wing victim lobby ardently denies. Which is way they so furiously attempt to change the subject.

Iowa Neo-Nazi Arrested for Threats to ‘Slaughter’ Jews: Prosecutors
An Iowa neo-Nazi threatened a Jewish group with disturbing violence over a YouTube video he disliked, prosecutors say.

Kelly Weill
An Iowa neo-Nazi has been arrested for allegedly threatening to “slaughter” Jews in messages to a Jewish organization, prosecutors say.

Garrett Kelsey, 31, allegedly left phone and email messages with a New York-based Jewish organization, sometimes threatening violence if they did not remove a YouTube video he disliked. Kelsey’s social media was filled with neo-Nazi references, as well as racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Muslim memes.

Kelsey’s alleged campaign against the Jewish organization began with a video about neo-Nazis. The Jewish organization had made a video about a Scandinavian fascist movement, likely the Nordic Resistance Movement, which has been involved in violent attacks for years.

Kelsey took offense at the video, prosecutors say. He practiced Asatru, a pagan faith that is not inherently hateful, but which has a documented following among white supremacists. On May 23, he allegedly used an email with an Asatru reference to threaten violence against the Jewish group if they did not “remove this video and offer an apology to the Asatru community.”

Asatru draws on some Scandinavian roots, but a video about Scandinavian neo-Nazis is not an attack on Asatru. Nevertheless, Kelsey allegedly made more graphic threats over the phone. He called the organization, spoke to an employee, then called back and left a threatening message with the employee’s name, according to a criminal complaint.

“My people have fucking slaughtered your fucking people and we will do it again,” he allegedly said. “And right now, you are giving us an incentive to do that.”

Kelsey also allegedly made threats against local anti-fascists.

“I think you better second guess opening your little queer club here in Iowa,” he allegedly wrote on an Iowa anti-fascist Facebook page in May, according to the complaint. “If I ever see any of you cock sucking commie fascist snowflakes, I’m gonna bash your skulls in without warning! White is might!! 1488!! Hail Odin! Hail Asatru!!” (“1488” is shorthand for a white supremacist slogan and “heil Hitler.”)

The anti-fascist group said he left other threats on their page. “The day is coming where these scumbags are finally going to be recognized by our government as the lousy terrorists they are!” read one post, which the group shared with The Daily Beast. “We will kill Antifa for fun! Antifa are just a bunch of degenerates!”

Calling anti-fascists “terrorists” and appealing on the government to criminalize anti-fascism is a popular meme on the far right. Earlier this month, Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Bill Cassidy introduced a bill aimed at designating anti-fascists a “domestic terrorist organization,” despite anti-fascism not constituting an official organization.

Though he accused anti-Nazis of being terrorists, Kelsey’s internet presence was heavy with content that glorified violence. At the time of the criminal complaint, Kelsey’s Facebook header image was a picture of Jews being transferred to a Nazi concentration camp. His profile picture was a meme of a cartoon frog in a clown costume called Honkler (a play on “Hitler”).

Kelsey also maintained presences on extremist-friendly social media sites Gab, Minds, and Bitchute. His profile picture on Gab and Minds was a Sonnenrad, a symbol popular with neo-Nazis. On Minds he encouraged people to join openly Nazi communities, and made repeated attacks on immigrants, Jews, and Muslims.
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Pro-Trump Republican aiming to unseat Ilhan Omar charged with felony theft
« Reply #171 on: July 26, 2019, 02:32:16 PM »
Poster girl for the MAGA types.

Pro-Trump Republican aiming to unseat Ilhan Omar charged with felony theft
Exclusive: Danielle Stella, reported to support baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, held twice this year over alleged shoplifting

in New York

Danielle Stella, the Republican running for Congress against Ilhan Omar in Minnesota. Stella earlier this week described Minneapolis as ‘the crime capital of our country’.
Danielle Stella, the Republican running for Congress against Ilhan Omar in Minnesota. Stella earlier this week described Minneapolis as ‘the crime capital of our country’. Photograph: Stella campaign

A pro-Trump Republican candidate for Congress who is aiming to unseat Ilhan Omar in Minnesota has been charged with a felony after allegedly stealing from stores.

Danielle Stella was arrested twice this year in Minneapolis suburbs over allegations that she shoplifted items worth more than $2,300 from a Target and goods valued at $40 from a grocery store. She said she denied the allegations.

Stella, a 31-year-old special education teacher, was reported this week to be a supporter of the baseless “QAnon” conspiracy theory about Donald Trump battling a global cabal of elite liberal paedophiles.

This week Stella also described Minneapolis as “the crime capital of our country”. She has in the past complained that local police were “overworked and overburdened” and said that, if elected, she would work to reduce crime.

In a series of text messages, Stella said: “I am not guilty of these crimes. In this country I am innocent until proven guilty and that is the law.”

She added: “If I was guilty of crimes, I would never run for public office, putting myself in the public eye under a microscope to be attacked by all political sides.”

An attorney for Stella, Joshua London, declined to comment.

Stella is accused of stealing 279 items valued at $2,327.97 from a Target store in Edina, to the south-west of Minneapolis, on 8 January this year. She was arrested for the alleged theft after security staff called the police.

A criminal complaint filed to Hennepin county district court alleged Stella was seen leaving the store without paying for most of her haul, after “scanning only a few other items” that were valued at about $50.

Danielle Stella. In a series of text messages, Stella said: ‘I am not guilty of these crimes.’
Danielle Stella. In a series of text messages, Stella said: ‘I am not guilty of these crimes.’ Photograph: Bloomington police department

The complaint said Stella told police in a statement she “remembers arriving at Target to purchase items but nothing else” due to post-traumatic stress disorder, and that she “normally she goes to Target with someone because of anxiety around people”.

Stella has said publicly that she was the victim of a severe violent assault in 2008. She is charged with the thefts under her former surname, which the Guardian agreed not to report because she said it could endanger her safety.

She is charged with felony theft over the incident at Targetand faces a punishment of up to five years in prison and a fine of $10,000 if convicted, according to court filings.

Police and court records said a warrant was put out for Stella’s re-arrest for alleged contempt of court on 4 April, after she failed to show up for a court hearing.

Officers in nearby Bloomington then arrested Stella on 28 April after she was allegedly seen by security staff at a Cub Foods grocery store stealing a bottle of tick spray for cats, and placing other items “under her purse so that they could not be seen”.

When they checked her identification, police officers discovered the open warrant for Stella’s arrest over her failure to appear in court for the earlier alleged shoplifting, their incident report said.

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From Trump to Johnson, nationalists are on the rise – backed by billionaire oligarchs
George Monbiot

The ultra-rich are benefitting from disaster capitalism as institutions, rules and democratic oversight implode

Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro at the White House with Donald Trump.
Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro at the White House with Donald Trump. ‘A host of ludicrous strongmen dominate nations that would once have laughed them off stage.’ Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Seven years ago the impressionist Rory Bremner complained that politicians had become so boring that few of them were worth mimicking: “They’re quite homogenous and dull these days … It’s as if character is seen as a liability.” Today his profession has the opposite problem: however extreme satire becomes, it struggles to keep pace with reality. The political sphere, so dull and grey a few years ago, is now populated by preposterous exhibitionists.

This trend is not confined to the UK – everywhere the killer clowns are taking over. Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Jair Bolsonaro, Scott Morrison, Rodrigo Duterte, Matteo Salvini, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Viktor Orbán and a host of other ludicrous strongmen – or weakmen, as they so often turn out to be – dominate nations that would once have laughed them off stage. The question is why? Why are the technocrats who held sway almost everywhere a few years ago giving way to extravagant buffoons?

Social media, an incubator of absurdity, is certainly part of the story. But while there has been plenty of good work investigating the means, there has been surprisingly little thinking about the ends. Why are the ultra-rich, who until recently used their money and newspapers to promote charisma-free politicians, now funding this circus? Why would capital wish to be represented by middle managers one moment and jesters the next?

The reason, I believe, is that the nature of capitalism has changed. The dominant force of the 1990s and early 2000s – corporate power – demanded technocratic government. It wanted people who could simultaneously run a competent, secure state and protect profits from democratic change. In 2012, when Bremner made his complaint, power was already shifting to a different place, but politics had not caught up.

The policies that were supposed to promote enterprise – slashing taxes for the rich, ripping down public protections, destroying trade unions – instead stimulated a powerful spiral of patrimonial wealth accumulation. The largest fortunes are now made not through entrepreneurial brilliance but through inheritance, monopoly and rent-seeking: securing exclusive control of crucial assets such as land and buildings privatised utilities and intellectual property, and assembling service monopolies such as trading hubs, software and social media platforms, then charging user fees far higher than the costs of production and delivery. In Russia, people who enrich themselves this way are called oligarchs. But this is a global phenomenon. Today corporate power is overlain by – and mutating into – oligarchic power.

'Deliver Brexit and unite the country': Boris Johnson's first speech as Tory leader – video

What the oligarchs want is not the same as what the old corporations wanted. In the words of their favoured theorist, Steve Bannon, they seek the “deconstruction of the administrative state”. Chaos is the profit multiplier for the disaster capitalism on which the new billionaires thrive. Every rupture is used to seize more of the assets on which our lives depend. The chaos of an undeliverable Brexit, the repeated meltdowns and shutdowns of government under Trump: these are the kind of deconstructions Bannon foresaw. As institutions, rules and democratic oversight implode, the oligarchs extend their wealth and power at our expense.

The killer clowns offer the oligarchs something else too: distraction and deflection. While the kleptocrats fleece us, we are urged to look elsewhere. We are mesmerised by buffoons who encourage us to channel the anger that should be reserved for billionaires towards immigrants, women, Jews, Muslims, people of colour and other imaginary enemies and customary scapegoats. Just as it was in the 1930s, the new demagoguery is a con, a revolt against the impacts of capital, financed by capitalists.

The oligarch’s interests always lie offshore: in tax havens and secrecy regimes. Paradoxically, these interests are best promoted by nationalists and nativists. The politicians who most loudly proclaim their patriotism and defence of sovereignty are always the first to sell their nations down the river. It is no coincidence that most of the newspapers promoting the nativist agenda, whipping up hatred against immigrants and thundering about sovereignty, are owned by billionaire tax exiles, living offshore.

As economic life has been offshored, so has political life. The political rules that are supposed to prevent foreign money from funding domestic politics have collapsed. The main beneficiaries are the self-proclaimed defenders of sovereignty who rise to power with the help of social media ads bought by persons unknown, and thinktanks and lobbyists that refuse to reveal their funders. A recent essay by the academics Reijer Hendrikse and Rodrigo Fernandez argues that offshore finance involves “the rampant unbundling and commercialisation of state sovereignty” and the shifting of power into a secretive, extraterritorial legal space, beyond the control of any state. In this offshore world, they contend, “financialised and hypermobile global capital effectively is the state”.

Today’s billionaires are the real citizens of nowhere. They fantasise, like the plutocrats in Ayn Rand’s terrible novel Atlas Shrugged, about further escape. Look at the “seasteading” venture funded by PayPal’s founder, Peter Thiel, that sought to build artificial islands in the middle of the ocean, whose citizens could enact a libertarian fantasy of escape from the state, its laws, regulations and taxes, and from organised labour. Scarcely a month goes by without a billionaire raising the prospect of leaving the Earth altogether, and colonising space pods or other planets.

Those whose identity is offshore seek only to travel farther offshore. To them, the nation state is both facilitator and encumbrance, source of wealth and imposer of tax, pool of cheap labour and seething mass of ungrateful plebs, from whom they must flee, leaving the wretched earthlings to their well-deserved fate.

Defending ourselves from oligarchy means taxing it to oblivion. It’s easy to get hooked up on discussions about what tax level maximises the generation of revenue. There are endless arguments about the Laffer curve, which purports to show where this level lies. But these discussions overlook something crucial: raising revenue is only one of the purposes of tax. Another is breaking the spiral of patrimonial wealth accumulation.

Breaking this spiral is a democratic necessity: otherwise the oligarchs, as we have seen, come to dominate national and international life. The spiral does not stop by itself: only government action can do it. This is one of the reasons why, during the 1940s, the top rate of income tax in the US rose to 94%, and in the UK to 98%. A fair society requires periodic corrections on this scale. But these days the steepest taxes would be better aimed at accumulated unearned wealth.

Of course, the offshore world the billionaires have created makes such bold policies extremely difficult: this, after all, is one of its purposes. But at least we know what the aim should be, and can begin to see the scale of the challenge. To fight something, first we need to understand it.

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Re: Who They Are... BAU in the FSA
« Reply #173 on: August 03, 2019, 05:28:24 AM »
GOP senator held up Trump nominee, demanding to see border wall contracts after Army Corps panned construction firm he prefers

In May 2016, Kevin Cramer, right, then a member of the House, talks about being one of the first to endorse Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

A Republican senator held up the confirmation of a White House budget official this week in an attempt to obtain sensitive information about border wall contracts he has been trying to steer to a major donor, according to emails obtained by The Washington Post.

The emails show Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) blasting the “arrogance” of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after senior military officials told him the contracts contained sensitive, proprietary information provided by the companies that could not be shared.

In recent months, Cramer has touted his preferred construction firm, North Dakota-based Fisher Industries, and campaign finance records show the senator has received thousands of dollars in contributions from company chief executive Tommy Fisher and his family members.

Cramer put a temporary hold this week on the confirmation of Michael Wooten, a nominee for a senior post at the White House Office of Management and Budget. After Wooten was confirmed Thursday, Cramer lashed out at the Army Corps in private emails when he was told the contracting bids contain sensitive information.

“This is a woefully inadequate response and not what I was promised by the White House as a condition for releasing my hold on the confirmation of the nominee for the Federal Procurement Officer,” Cramer wrote, copying others at OMB, the White House and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“The fact that you all claim secrecy without [citing] statute makes me very suspicious,” he wrote. “I have decided to stay in DC another day and would like to see General Semonite in my office tomorrow.”

Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the top official at the Army Corps, went to Cramer’s office Friday to provide the senator with a private briefing. Cramer’s office released a statement afterward, vowing to hold the military engineers “accountable.”

“We received an update on wall construction and the bidding process, as well as a number of documents and the answers to questions we requested from the Army Corps,” the statement said. “I believe we have their attention and are in a position to succeed.”

Trump has redirected $3.5 billion in Defense Department funds to the border project and promised to build 500 miles of barrier before the 2020 election. Cramer said the president has bestowed him with special responsibilities to oversee progress.

“President Trump deputized Senator Cramer to work with the Army Corps to ensure their process is fair, transparent, and delivers the best possible deal for the American people,” Cramer’s statement read.

[Trump tries to steer border wall contracts to North Dakota firm]

In an interview Friday with The Washington Post conducted via email, Cramer said he’d placed the hold on Wooten “to get the nominee to agree to reforming [the Army Corps] procurement process,” which the senator criticized for prioritizing technical specifications over cost. “If that doesn’t concern watchdogs nothing should,” Cramer wrote.

He dismissed claims the contracts contained private information unavailable to someone with the stature of a U.S. senator.

“I can know where every submarine in the oceans are,” Cramer said in a separate email. “A simple non disclosure is sufficient for a member of Congress. The fact they won’t share it is concerning.”

“I don’t know what they are hiding,” he wrote.

An Army Corps spokesperson confirmed that Semonite met with Cramer on Friday but referred questions about the meeting to the senator’s office.

White House officials said they were aware Cramer had intervened to hold up Wooten’s nomination but they said they weren’t told about his connections to a specific company that has bid on border wall contracts.

Tommy Fisher and his wife gave at least $10,000 — the maximum allowable contribution — to Cramer in 2018 when he ran for Senate, records show. Fisher was Cramer’s guest at Trump’s State of the Union speech in February last year. The company chief executive said he shook Trump’s hand afterward. Fisher has also been a repeat guest on Fox News in recent months, where he has praised the border wall effort and promoted his firm.

Senior White House officials said they have been aware for several months that Cramer had expressed a personal interest in how these bids were being awarded. Cramer told a North Dakota radio station in May that he had personally raised concerns about the bidding process with Trump and that Trump had said, perhaps jokingly, “I deputize you” to deal with it.

The North Dakota senator has repeatedly promoted Fisher, and Trump too has joined the effort, pitching the company in meetings at the White House and aboard Air Force One that have troubled miliary commanders and Department of Homeland Security officials.

They say it is highly unusual for a president to intervene on behalf of a private company seeking billions in federal contracts, and one of the reasons the Army Corps has long managed the procurement process is the military’s reputation for integrity and rectitude.

Fisher Industries was hired by activist group We Build the Wall to install a span of steel bollard fencing this spring on private land west of El Paso. Former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon, Blackwater USA founder Erik Prince and immigration hard-liner Kris Kobach are among the board members of the group, which says it has raised $25 million through private donations.

For Fisher, the project has been a showcase for what it says are innovative techniques that install the steel fencing faster and cheaper than its competitors. Despite Cramer’s efforts to influence and the president’s endorsement, Fisher was not picked by the Army Corps in recent rounds of bidding.

Fisher sued the government in April, alleging improprieties with the Army Corps procurement process.

During previous bids, the Army Corps said the company’s design did not meet its requirements and lacked regulatory approvals. DHS officials also told the Army Corps in March that Fisher’s work on a barrier project in San Diego came in late and over budget.

Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.

« Last Edit: August 03, 2019, 05:55:14 AM by Surly1 »
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NRA Spent Tens of Thousands on Hair & Makeup for CEO’s Wife
« Reply #174 on: August 16, 2019, 07:47:21 AM »
NRA Spent Tens of Thousands on Hair & Makeup for CEO’s Wife
The gun group used donor funds to fly Susan LaPierre’s favorite stylists around the country and put them up in style.

The NRA spent tens of thousands of dollars bringing hair and makeup artists around the country for the wife of its CEO, two sources told The Daily Beast. The expenses–which included plane flights and luxury hotel stays for the stylists–are bound to fuel an already-raging debate over what some see as a spendthrift culture in the NRA’s upper echelons. The NRA, meanwhile, called it a “non-story,” and said their ex-ad firm was responsible for any such expenses.

Susan LaPierre, the wife of longtime NRA chief Wayne LaPierre, is one of the gun organization’s many public faces, and co-chairs its Women’s Leadership Forum. She often speaks at that group’s annual gatherings for female NRA supporters. And for years now, the NRA has paid for a makeup artist and a hair stylist, both based in Nashville and plugged in to the country music scene, to do LaPierre’s hair and make-up at events around the country, according to two sources familiar with the arrangements.

The NRA Women’s Leadership Forum hosts many of its events in major metropolitan areas where local hair and makeup talent abounds. But because of LaPierre’s preference for the Nashville artists, the gun group has paid a premium to fly them around the country, and put them up in style.

That may be changing, though, as those expenditures have raised eyebrows within the NRA. According to one of the sources, the stylists were booked to provide hair and makeup services for LaPierre at its member gathering in Indianapolis this past April. But as media reports emerged with allegations of extravagant spending by the gun group, NRA officials worried the Nashville stylists’ presence could attract scrutiny. So they canceled on them at the last minute. Because the cancellation came so late, the NRA still had to pay their fees.

An NRA spokesperson alleged this reporting was orchestrated by the group’s former public relations firm, which it is suing. That firm, Ackerman McQueen, worked with the NRA for more than three decades. It handled payments for many expenses related to the NRA’s public relations–expenses the NRA ultimately picked up.

“This is the latest example of the smear campaign orchestrated to damage those close to the NRA,” said Andrew Arulanandam, the NRA’s managing director of public affairs. “In this instance, our former vendor shamelessly targets the wife of the Association’s CEO. Once again, Ackerman McQueen attempts to mislead by suggesting that Ms. LaPierre had responsibility for actions taken by the agency.”

“Ms. LaPierre and other senior members of the NRA fundraising team participate in TV interviews, nationally-televised speeches, and videos used to raise millions of dollars annually. Hair and make-up services might be used in those instances–coordinated, directed, and paid for by Ackerman. This is another non-story with facts presented out of context–an act of desperation being fueled by the same group of people who attempted to extort Wayne LaPierre and the Association.”

A spokesperson for the ad firm directed The Daily Beast to prior statements saying all of Ackerman’s payments were made at the NRA’s direction.

The expenditures, which have not been previously reported, will frustrate some NRA members who say the group’s leadership spends donor funds irresponsibly.

“If all of these allegations are true, they are one more example of the climate of living life large on the donations of members,” said Steve Hoback, an NRA member and former NRA staffer who has criticized its leadership. “And they in no way add to the core mission of the NRA, which is the development and conduct of firearms safety and education courses and defense of Second Amendment rights. There’s no way that a bouffant ‘do and glittery eyeshadow is going to protect anyone’s Second Amendment rights.”

Over the last several weeks, scrutiny of the NRA’s financial decisions has intensified. Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported that the group considered spending more than $5 million to buy a mansion on a golf course in Dallas, Texas, for the LaPierres. The talks came last year after the Parkland shooting when the NRA CEO had concerns about his safety, according to the Journal, but the NRA did not ultimately buy the house.

The association has also drawn criticism for spending almost $275,000 over 13 years on designer clothing for Wayne LaPierre. It also spent nearly $100,000 in 2012 on his travel, including trips to Palm Beach and the Bahamas, and stays at the Budapest Four Seasons and a five-star resort on Lake Como in Italy. The revelations came from a leaked document posted online anonymously. The NRA has defended the spending, saying its CEO needs to maintain a well-groomed public profile and that he raised money for the group on his trips. But LaPierre does not enjoy unanimous support: Col. Allen West, a member of the NRA board and grassroots favorite, called for his resignation after the news broke and said the spending was “despicable.”

The NRA’s finances have drawn intense public scrutiny over the last year as its expenses have ballooned. The group is embroiled in a host of legal tangles, including multiple congressional investigations, multiple probes from state attorneys general, and high-stakes litigation with the governor of New York. It is also suing—and, simultaneously being sued by—its former public relations firm, Ackerman McQueen. Tens of millions of dollars could be at stake in those lawsuits.

Unsurprisingly, the NRA has amassed hefty legal bills. Its estranged ex-president Oliver North estimated the gun group’s outside law firm was charging it upwards of $100,000 a day and has said the fees threaten the group’s very existence. The NRA board and senior leadership, meanwhile, have disputed North’s estimates and defended the law firm’s work.

At the same time, the group has lost some of its top political talent. Earlier this year, its longtime lobbying chief Chris Cox resigned. Cox, who pushed the group to spend big to support Trump’s campaign in the 2016 election, had the president’s trust, as well as a fat Rolodex of Republican members of Congress. Together, LaPierre and Cox dissuaded Trump from pushing for tougher gun laws after the Parkland massacre. It remains to be seen if the association will maintain its effectiveness in his absence.
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A Border Agent’s Hateful Career and the Crime That Finally Ended It.
« Reply #175 on: August 16, 2019, 03:44:41 PM »
“Dirtbag,” “Savages,” “Subhuman”: A Border Agent’s Hateful Career and the Crime That Finally Ended It.
Border Patrol agent Matthew Bowen had been investigated for years before he used his 4,000-pound truck to assault a fleeing migrant.

A U.S. Border Patrol vehicle parked near the U.S.-Mexico border. (John Moore/Getty Images)

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published.

It was late November 2017, and Matthew Bowen, a veteran Border Patrol agent, was seething. A fellow Border Patrol agent in Texas had just been found dead in the field, and Bowen was certain someone who’d been crossing the border illegally was responsible for murdering him.

“Snuffed out by some dirtbag,” Bowen, stationed in Nogales, Arizona, said in a text later obtained by federal authorities.

Bowen, if lacking in evidence, wasn’t alone in his anger and suspicion. President Donald Trump, nearing the end of his first year in office and already frustrated in his bid to construct a wall on the southern border, had promised to “seek out and bring to justice those responsible” for the Texas agent’s death. Brandon Judd, the head of the union that represents Border Patrol agents, declared to Fox News and other media outlets that the Texas agent had been “ambushed.”

Bowen’s work record suggested his distaste for the mix of migrants and drug traffickers crossing the border illegally could be dangerous. He’d been the subject of multiple internal investigations over excessive force during his 10-year career, court records show. In one, he’d been accused of giving a handcuffed suspect what agents called a “rough ride,” slamming the brakes on his all-terrain vehicle in a way that flung the suspect into the ground.

Bowen, though, had stayed on the job. And with the news of the Texas agent’s death, his disgust for illegal border-crossers seemed only to have deepened.

“Mindless murdering savages,” he texted to another agent that November.

Two weeks later, Bowen climbed behind the wheel of a Border Patrol pickup truck and used it to strike a Guatemalan migrant in a dusty parking lot in southern Arizona. Bowen eventually was arrested by federal authorities in May 2018 and charged with using his Ford F-150 pickup, a 4,000-pound vehicle, to menace the man as he tried to flee Bowen and other agents on foot. The truck, according to an affidavit filed by prosecutors in court, hit the man twice and came within inches of running him over. Prosecutors accused Bowen of using “deadly force against a person who was running away from him and posed no threat.”

On Monday, after months of legal wrangling and on the eve of trial, Bowen pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor civil rights charge, an offense that carries a potential term of up to a year in jail. In his plea deal, Bowen admitted to hitting the man with his truck and promised to resign from the Border Patrol. Sentencing has been set for October.

Bowen’s arrest and a variety of his ugly texts concerning migrants and others crossing the border illegally have been widely reported in recent months. But court documents and interviews suggest that his checkered career speaks to a much broader problem in the Border Patrol: its inability or unwillingness to identify and discipline problem agents.

The case against Bowen comes amid increasing scrutiny of an agency that critics and insiders say is permeated by a culture of contempt for migrants. This year, ProPublica exposed the existence of a secret Facebook group in which agents engaged in cruel and dehumanizing discussions about people coming into the U.S. unlawfully. ProPublica has also detailed the failures by the agency to fully reform what critics inside and outside the Border Patrol have deemed a failed system of discipline for troubled agents.

Bowen’s attack on the Guatemalan migrant was at least the sixth time he had been accused of using excessive force during his decade with the agency.

None of the previous episodes resulted in any discipline beyond an “oral admonishment.” Unlike many police departments, the Border Patrol has no early intervention program for troubled agents, measures that would have triggered additional training or a deeper inquiry into Bowen’s behavior and mindset even if his conduct did not warrant formal discipline. At least two supervisors with direct knowledge of Bowen’s work history said they regarded him as a danger but were resigned to the fact that the agency was unlikely to ever punish or even fire him.

“Other law enforcement agencies would’ve weeded him out,” said one of those who supervised Bowen. “Other law enforcement agencies have much higher standards than we do.”

Bowen’s attorney, Sean Chapman, had sought to keep his record of complaints from being introduced at trial. The lawyer had also asked a judge to bar all or most of his text messages from being made known to any eventual jury. Faced with having to explain the texts, Chapman had said in court filings that the conversations were not unusual, but instead “commonplace” in the part of Arizona where Bowen worked. The texts, the lawyer argued in one filing last spring, are “part of the agency’s culture.”

If true, it’s a remarkable claim, for the messages Bowen traded over the years with colleagues are openly hateful. In one, he said the men, women and children attempting to cross into the U.S. were “disgusting subhuman shit unworthy of being kindling in a fire.” In another, he joked about how tasty Guatemalan migrants can be if they are properly “fried” through the use of Tasers. In yet another, Bowen trained his anger on his own agency, calling it a “fucking failed agency” where he and other agents “are treated like shit, prosecuted for doing what it takes to arrest these savages, and not given appropriate resources to fully do our job.”

In texts Bowen sent after he assaulted the migrant, he referred to the victim as a “guat” and dismissed the incident as all but a nonevent, suggesting the only reason it had resulted in any action was because it was caught on a camera belonging to the patrol’s parent organization, Customs and Border Protection.

With Bowen still awaiting sentencing, Chapman declined to speak in detail about the case or his client. However, the attorney insisted that the offensive messages “were in reference to specific events where Border Patrol agents were assaulted or killed. The texts therefore were not intended to be a general comment about illegal immigrants — only about individuals that attacked or injured agents.”

The border station in Nogales, Arizona. (Dimitros Manis/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Officials with the Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection would not respond to questions about Bowen’s case and what it might say about wider problems with the patrol.

In November 2017, enraged about the death of the agent in Texas, Bowen lamented that the border-crossers he suspected of killing the agent might spend years eluding the authorities.

“It will probably take them eight years to find the fucking beaners responsible,” he wrote in a text.

Months later, the FBI completed an exhaustive investigation into the Texas agent’s death. There was no evidence he’d been murdered. The local Texas sheriff said it appeared the agent, 36-year-old Rogelio Martinez, had fallen into a deep concrete culvert and suffered fatal head trauma.

“To date none of the more than 650 interviews completed, locations searched, or evidence collected and analyzed have produced evidence that would support the existence of a scuffle, altercation, or attack,” the bureau’s El Paso office said in a statement.

By then, Bowen had already committed the crime for which he’d pay with his career.

“I’ve Seen Egregious Incidents Get Swept Under the Rug”

Bowen — 6-foot-2, 185 pounds — joined the Border Patrol in 2008 just as it was undergoing the most substantial transformation in its history. With Congress boosting the Border Patrol’s funding, the agency underwent a massive hiring push, a surge that roughly doubled the number of agents in the span of just six years. Former officials now say the speed of the Border Patrol’s expansion made it likely there would be bad hires, perhaps a significant number of them.

Bowen, who had lived in South Carolina before joining the agency, was assigned to the Border Patrol station in Nogales, an outpost in the hill country of southern Arizona, where scrubby mesquite and paloverde trees stud the rugged landscape. The station, a fortresslike compound, stands about 2 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, which is marked here by a rusty, 20-foot-tall steel fence encrusted with coils of razor wire. On one side of the barrier is the small town of Nogales, Arizona. On the other is the larger city of Nogales, in the state of Sonora, a major Mexican manufacturing hub that is home to more than 200,000 people.

he border fence stretching through Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Mexico. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

The world of the Border Patrol is broken up into 20 geographic regions called sectors. The Nogales station is located in the Tucson sector, which covers about two-thirds of Arizona. While migration patterns and contraband routes are always evolving, the Tucson sector tends to be one of the busiest areas for Border Patrol agents. Agents in the sector made more than 52,000 arrests during the last fiscal year. Only the Rio Grande Valley sector in Texas had more apprehensions.

Over the years, the Tucson sector has also been known as a trouble spot within the patrol. In 2017, there were 701 disciplinary cases involving sector agents, more than anywhere else in the country.

In interviews, several people who worked with or supervised Bowen said he grew to have a reputation as a bully, a man with a bilious disdain for those seeking asylum or illegal entry into the U.S. In texts, Bowen referred to migrants and other border-crossers as “beaners” or “tonks,” a pejorative term referring to the sound made when agents banged their flashlights on the heads of those being taken into custody.

In later texts, he discussed his frustrations with the job and pondered quitting the patrol. A co-worker sent back a message reminding Bowen of the fun aspects of the job, like “running down shitbags who thought they had you fooled.”

From 2012 to 2015, five different people detained by Bowen accused him of needless violence, according to court records.

In January 2012, according to prosecutors, Bowen searched a young man’s car at a security checkpoint without probable cause. Bowen pulled the man from the car, threw him to the ground and handcuffed him. In March 2015, a fellow agent expressed concern after Bowen tackled a migrant and busted the man’s lip. A month later, an undocumented man said that Bowen had dragged him around by his handcuffs, causing painful abrasions to his wrists. In September 2015, Bowen was again reported by a colleague, this time for taking down a juvenile in a particularly violent fashion.

Later that fall, Bowen was accused of the “rough ride” incident. After apprehending an undocumented migrant in the desert, Bowen handcuffed him and threw him on the front of his ATV, according to court records and interviews. Then Bowen made the ride as unpleasant as possible, said a Border Patrol employee with direct knowledge of the incident. At one point, the employee said, Bowen purposely stomped on the brakes, causing the man, still handcuffed, to fly off the vehicle and slam into the dirt.

In these cases, Bowen was investigated by either Customs and Border Protection’s internal affairs bureau or by the Office of Inspector General with the Department of Homeland Security. Neither the internal affairs unit nor the Inspector General’s office responded to requests for comment.

Prosecutors sought permission to bring evidence of Bowen’s allegedly abusive behavior into the expected trial, arguing that the complaints helped to provide broader context for the truck attack. The defense attorney, Chapman, countered, saying in court briefs that the only relevant incident was the ATV episode, since it involved the use of a vehicle as a weapon.

Chapman, in court papers, maintained that Bowen had only been censured for two of the incidents, saying he’d received an “oral admonishment” after the episodes in March and April 2015. According to the attorney, Bowen was cleared of misconduct in the other three cases.

A current Border Patrol manager who worked with Bowen for many years said “oral admonishments are a joke” that do little to deter bad behavior.

The Border Patrol’s system for investigating and disciplining its agents has long been suspect, and in 2016, a blue-ribbon panel of experts named by then-President Barack Obama declared it nothing short of “broken.” Investigations dragged on for years, in part because there were too few investigators. Victims who accused agents of misconduct were largely kept in the dark, barred from knowing whether the accused agents had been found culpable and disciplined in any way. Scores of agents were arrested every year and charged with a wide variety of crimes, but many managed to hang onto their jobs.

One former Customs and Border Protection manager with extensive knowledge of the Border Patrol’s disciplinary process said the quality of casework was lacking and the end results of investigations inconsistent. The former official said the authority to discipline agents for on-the-job misconduct and policy violations generally rests with commanders in each of the agency’s 20 geographic sectors. Of the more than 700 discipline cases in the Tucson sector in 2017, more than 500 led to “informal discipline” or no punishment at all.

“I’ve seen egregious incidents get swept under the rug,” said the former Customs and Border Protection official, citing cases involving domestic violence and assault, embezzlement and lying to superiors.

Bowen’s lack of regard for any oversight at the agency comes through in the texts obtained by prosecutors. The discipline process, he suggested, is little more than a system for supervising officials to cover their rear ends. Customs and Border Protection employees who reported their co-workers for excessive force or other wrongs were “fags.”

“BP is just meant to destroy guys that want to catch people,” Bowen wrote in one text about his frustration with the agency.

One of the supervisors who managed Bowen said the Border Patrol’s disciplinary system is largely punitive and only responds, when it does at all, to one incident at a time. Many big city police departments, noted the supervisor, have created early intervention systems, which can track everything from uses of force to tardiness to public complaints in order to identify troubled officers and help them change course before something tragic occurs. Under such a system, the supervisor said, the pattern of complaints against Bowen could have prompted mandatory retraining or some kind of counseling. Either he would have improved or been squarely on the agency’s radar as a potential menace.

“It absolutely works,” the supervisor said of such early intervention systems.

“He Did Not Deserve to Be Executed”

At some point, records and interviews show, Bowen found another agent in Nogales with whom he felt a sense of kinship, Lonnie Swartz. They would come in the years ahead to share their perspectives on migrants and their dim view of their agency’s stomach for the hard work of ending illegal immigration. While joking darkly about their jobs, the two, records show, once had shared a three-minute video of a Border Patrol agent pummeling an undocumented man, repeatedly smashing his skull against the steel beams of a border fence.

“Please let us take the gloves off trump,” Bowen once wrote to Swartz in a text.

Bowen’s Border Patrol buddy, it turns out, probably never should have been hired. In 1995, he had enlisted in the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky. But, within weeks, he had gone AWOL and fled the base. Facing criminal charges under military law, Swartz lived on the lam for nearly two years before he was captured in Las Vegas by a joint task force of local police officers and FBI agents, federal court records indicate. He was eventually ousted from the Army with an “other than honorable” discharge.

Somehow, however, he made it through the agency’s background check process and was hired by the Border Patrol in 2009, a year after Bowen. Court records indicate that Swartz misled the background investigators about his violations of military law during the hiring process in 2009 and again during a second background check in 2014. The former Customs and Border Protection official said that the Army discharge issue should have kept Swartz out of the patrol.

“That’s just shoddy,” the person said. “That should be an automatic disqualification. Whoever did the background investigation didn’t do their job properly.”

Chapman, who specializes in cases involving Border Patrol agents, represented Swartz during his trials. In an email, the attorney said Swartz “didn’t attempt to mislead anyone” about his history with the Army.

A spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection would not comment on the circumstances surrounding Swartz’s hiring.

In 2012, about two years after graduating from the Border Patrol academy, Swartz was the one facing federal criminal charges. Swartz had shot and killed a 16-year-old boy, José Antonio Elena Rodríguez, during what he and other agents said was a dangerous encounter with rock-throwing Mexican nationals along the border fence. Charging Swartz with murder, federal prosecutors told a very different story. They said that in reality Swartz was in no danger of being struck by a stone when he opened fire and shot the teen 10 times — two bullets hit the youth in the head, the others in the back. Rather, the prosecutors argued, Swartz killed the boy because he was “fed up” after a series of clashes with migrants and other border-crossers.

A portrait of José Antonio Elena Rodríguez on the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Nogales. (Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images)

Whether or not the boy was throwing rocks that night, prosecutors said, “it wasn’t a capital offense. He did not deserve to be executed.”

The shooting prompted a long and unusual series of events. For three years, the Border Patrol would not make public the name of the agent who had shot the boy, including to the boy’s family. It was only after the family filed suit against the agency that the federal authorities brought criminal charges against Swartz. His first trial ended with a jury acquitting him of murder charges but deadlocking on the lesser offense of manslaughter. The second, coming near the end of 2018, resulted in Swartz’s acquittal on all charges. The second jury had repeatedly told the judge it was unable to reach a unanimous verdict, and it only wound up acquitting when the judge ordered the jurors to keep trying.

Swartz’s lawyer argued at the trials that Swartz had followed proper procedure in firing his weapon.

“You can employ deadly force against a rock thrower if he poses a risk of serious bodily harm. That’s the law,” said Chapman during the second trial. “And that’s what he did. He followed his training and he followed the law.”

But a high-ranking Border Patrol agent who served in Nogales said that Swartz was a management challenge from the start of his tenure with the patrol. “He was too aggressive” and was constantly looking to escalate encounters with smugglers or migrants at the border fence, the agent said. Supervisors, said the agent, tried unsuccessfully “to reel him in.”

Disturbed by the teen’s killing — and a raft of other cross-border shootings — Customs and Border Protection leaders in 2013 brought in a team of outside law enforcement experts to examine the Border Patrol’s guidelines regarding the use of firearms. “Frustration is a factor motivating agents to shoot at rock throwers,” found the analysts, who studied 67 shooting incidents and 10 key policy directives. “While rock throwing can result in injuries or death, there must be clear justification to warrant the use of deadly force.”

The report, produced by the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based consultancy, was followed by a four-page update to the use-of-force policies. Under the new rules, agents who were attacked with rocks or other projectiles were supposed to seek cover and “distance themselves from the immediate area of danger.”

The change left many agents grumbling that the Border Patrol had gone soft.

The Border Patrol would not say if Swartz still works for the agency in any capacity.

“It Just Seems to Keep Getting Worse”

Around 7:30 one morning in December 2017, a 23-year-old Guatemalan national named Antolín López-Aguilar slipped over the border fence in Nogales and tried to hide underneath a parked semi-trailer.

Bowen, who was driving a green-and-white patrol-issued truck, was sent to apprehend the migrant. He was accompanied by two other agents who had been dispatched in separate vehicles.

When López-Aguilar tried to run, Bowen, still in his truck, gave chase. According to prosecutors, Bowen then made the conscious decision to drive his F-150 pickup into the migrant, striking the man twice from behind and pushing him to the ground. The attack, which prosecutors said left López-Aguilar mildly injured and traumatized, was captured by video cameras at a nearby port of entry.

In the days and weeks after the assault, texts obtained by the government show, Bowen appeared both proud of his conduct and confident that little would come of it. In a text to Swartz, Bowen boasted of having performed what he called “a human pit maneuver.” PIT stands for pursuit intervention tactic. In simple terms it involves a police officer or law enforcement agent driving his or her car into the rear of a fleeing vehicle. There is no such thing in American policing as a “human pit maneuver.”

“The tonk was totally fine,” Bowen wrote, using the crude term again. “Just a little bump with a ford bumper.”

“If I had to tackle the tonk,” he said in another message, “I would still be doing memos and shit.”

In his text conversations, Bowen complained that he was only being investigated because the incident had been captured by the video cameras. He acknowledged that he’s been on the “radar” of the internal affairs bureau and seemed to have wearied of the agency’s efforts, however modest, to police its own.

“I’ve decided after this is cleared up, I’m resigning,” he wrote.

It did not get cleared up, and Bowen’s texts reveal his growing anxiety. He noted that he could be charged with assault with a deadly weapon. He feared being sent away from his family. For comfort, he reached out to Swartz, who at the time was still in the midst of his prosecution for the boy’s shooting.

“Guys are being made to think any use of force results in you being investigated,” Bowen wrote to Swartz. “And so they are letting tonks get away with way too much.”

The array of texts obtained by the government, whatever significance they have for Bowen’s crime or the Border Patrol’s oversight of him, do offer a very personal and specific window into the mindset and apparent morale problems that current and former agents say plague the agency.

Bowen derided the “liberal” media and Obama appointees, and he thought in the current political environment, prosecutors were determined to make criminal prosecutions out of virtually any use-of-force case that gets referred to them. He was bitter, he said, about how the system was “rigged” just as Trump claimed, although it’s unclear what system he was talking about. Swartz seemed sympathetic. In one text to Bowen, he complained about how the agency was under-funded, and its equipment was unreliable, even its weapons.

Bowen made clear in his texts that he no longer believed in his own agency, and that he had been contemplating bailing from the Border Patrol for a long time. He’d explored taking classes that might help him get into the real estate business — his wife was a real estate agent — or starting a trucking company. He’s done with his “mindless” job.

“I just have to transition away from BP,” wrote Bowen. “I think it will be like coming out of a 10-year depression.”

He continued, “There were lots of good days. But the past few years the bad has far outweighed the good and it just seems to keep getting worse.”

In a text from Dec. 8, 2017, just days after the incident with the truck, Bowen wrote without irony: “This shit is the kicker I needed to make the decision,” he said of resigning. “I feel like one day I would have to make a decision that would cost me my life or my freedom.”
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Top Financier of McConnell and Trump Driving Force Behind Amazon Deforestation
« Reply #176 on: August 28, 2019, 05:26:44 AM »
“Blackstone is committed to responsible environmental stewardship,” the company said in a statement.

Steve Schwarzman, a Top Financier of Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump, Is a Driving Force Behind Amazon Deforestation


August 27 2019, 11:53 a.m.

TWO BRAZILIAN FIRMS owned by a top donor to President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are significantly responsible for the ongoing destruction of the Amazon rainforest, carnage that has developed into raging fires that have captivated global attention. 

The companies have wrested control of land, deforested it, and helped build a controversial highway to their new terminal in the one-time jungle, all to facilitate the cultivation and export of grain and soybeans. The shipping terminal at Miritituba, deep in the Amazon in the Brazilian state of Pará, allows growers to load soybeans on barges, which will then sail to a larger port before the cargo is shipped around the world. 

The Amazon terminal is run by Hidrovias do Brasil, a company that is owned in large part by Blackstone, a major U.S. investment firm. Another Blackstone company, Pátria Investimentos, owns more than 50 percent of Hidrovias, while Blackstone itself directly owns an additional roughly 10 percent stake. Blackstone co-founder and CEO Stephen Schwarzman is a close ally of Trump and has donated millions of dollars to McConnell in recent years. 

“Blackstone is committed to responsible environmental stewardship,” the company said in a statement. “This focus and dedication is embedded in every investment decision we make and guides how we conduct ourselves as operators. In this instance, while we do not have operating control, we know the company has made a significant reduction in overall carbon emissions through lower congestion and allowed the more efficient flow of agricultural goods by Brazilian farmers.”

The port and the highway have been deeply controversial in Brazil, and were subjects of a 2016 investigation by The Intercept Brasil. Hidrovias announced in early 2016 that it would soon begin exporting soybeans trucked from the state of Mato Grosso along the B.R.-163 highway. The road was largely unpaved at the time, but the company said it planned to continue improving and developing it. In the spring of 2019, the government of Jair Bolsonaro, elected in fall 2018, announced that Hidrovias would partner in the privatization and development of hundreds of miles of the B.R.-163. Developing the roadway itself causes deforestation, but, more importantly, it helps make possible the broader transformation of the Amazon from jungle to farmland.

The roadway, B.R. 163, has had a marked effect on deforestation. After the devastation that began under the military dictatorship and accelerated through the 1970s and ’80s, the rate of deforestation slowed, as a coalition of Indigenous communities and other advocates of sustaining the forest fought back against the encroachment. The progress began turning back in 2014, as political tides shifted right and global commodity prices climbed. Deforestation began to truly spike again after the soft coup that ousted President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party in 2016. The right-wing government that seized power named soy mogul Blairo Maggi, a former governor of Mato Grosso, as minister of agriculture.

Yet even as deforestation had been slowing prior to the coup, the area around the highway was being destroyed. “Every year between 2004 and 2013 — except 2005 — while deforestation in Amazonia as a whole fell, it increased in the region around the B.R.-163,” the Financial Times reported in September 2017. That sparked pushback from Indigenous defenders of the Amazon. In March, Hidrovias admitted that its business had been slowed by increasing blockades on B.R. 163, as people put their bodies in front of the destruction. Still, the company is pushing forward. Hidrovios recently said that, thanks to heavy investment, it planned to double its grain shipping capacity to 13 million tons.


Map: Soohee Cho/The Intercept

The Amazon, where a record number of fires have been raging, is the world’s largest rainforest. It absorbs a significant amount of carbon dioxide, a major contributor to the climate crisis. The Amazon is so dense in vegetation that it produces something like a fifth of the world’s oxygen supply. The moisture that evaporates from the Amazon is important form farmlands not just in South America, but also in the U.S. Midwest, where it falls to the earth as rain. Protection of the Amazon, 60 percent of which is in Brazil, is crucial to the continued existence of civilization as we know it. 


On the Front Lines of Bolsonaro’s War on the Amazon, Brazil’s Forest Communities Fight Against Climate Catastrophe

The effort to transform the Amazon from a rainforest into a source of agribusiness revenue is central to the conflict, and linked to the fires raging out of control today. The leading edge of the invasion of the jungle is being cut by grileiros, or “land-grabbers,” who operate outside the law with chainsaws. The grileiros then sell the newly cleared land to agribusiness concerns, whose harvest is driven on the highway to the terminal, before being exported. Bolsonaro has long called for the Amazon to be turned over to agribusiness, and has rapidly defanged agencies responsible for protecting it, and empowered agribusiness leaders intent on clearing the forest. The land-grabbers have become emboldened.

“With Bolsonaro, the invasions are worse and will continue to get worse,” Francisco Umanari, a 42-year-old Apurinã chief, told Alexander Zaitchik,for a recent story in The Intercept. “His project for the Amazon is agribusiness. Unless he is stopped, he’ll run over our rights and allow a giant invasion of the forest. The land grabs are not new, but it’s become a question of life and death.”

Fires in the Amazon have been producing devastation described as unprecedented, many of them lit by farmers and others looking to clear land for cultivation or grazing. Bolsonaro initially dismissed the fires as unworthy of serious attention. Several weeks ago, Bolsonaro fired a chief government scientist for a report on the rapid escalation of deforestation under Bolsonaro’s administration, claiming that the numbers were fabricated. 

Beginning with the military dictatorship in Brazil, when agribusiness was fully empowered, roughly a fifth of the jungle was destroyed by the mid-2000s. If the Amazon loses another fifth of its mass, it is at risk of a phenomenon known as dieback, where the forest becomes so dry that a vicious, cascading cycle takes over, and it becomes, as Zaitchik writes, “beyond the reach of any subsequent human intervention or regret.”

The Blackstone Group Chairman & CEO Stephen A. Schwarzman is interviewed by Maria Bartiromo during her "Mornings with Maria Bartiromo" program, on the Fox Business Network, in New York Friday, April 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Blackstone Group CEO Steve Schwarzman is interviewed on the Fox Business Network on April 27, 2018.

Photo: Richard Drew/AP

SCHWARZMAN, A FOUNDER of Blackstone, owns roughly a fifth of the company, making him one of the world’s richest men. In 2018, he was paid at least $568 million, which was, in fact, a drop from the $786 million he made the year before. He has been generous toward McConnell and Trump with that wealth. In 2016, he gave $2.5 million to the Senate Leadership Fund, McConnell’s Super PAC and put Jim Breyer, McConnell’s billionaire brother-in-law, on the board of Blackstone. Two years later, Schwarzman kicked in $8 million to McConnell’s Super PAC. 

Blackstone employees have given well over $10 million to McConnell and his Super PAC over the years, making them the biggest source of direct financing over McConnell’s career. McConnell’s Senate campaign declined to comment.

Schwarzman is a close friend and adviser to Trump, and served as the chair of his Strategic and Policy Forum until it fell apart in the wake of the Charlottesville neo-Nazi rally, in which Trump famously praised “very fine people, on both sides.” In December 2017, as the final details of the GOP tax cut were being ironed out, Schwarzman hosted a $100,000-a-plate fundraiser for Trump. Some of the president’s dinner companions complained about the tax bill, and days later, Trump slashed the top percentage rate in the final package from 39.6 to 37. 

In recent months, the Sackler family, whose members founded and own the pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma, have become pariahs for their role in facilitating the opioid crisis and the deaths of tens of thousands of people. Schwarzman’s contributions to the destruction of the Amazon, which stands between humanity and an uninhabitable planet, may ultimately render him as socially untouchable as the Sacklers, given the scale of the fallout from the destruction of the rainforest. 

IN DEFENSE OF the project, a Blackstone spokesperson noted that it had been approved by the International Finance Corporation, an affiliate of the World Bank, and that the IFC had determined that the project would, in fact, reduce carbon emissions. Blackstone also forwarded a statement that it credited to Hidrovias, which also emphasized the support of the IFC:

Hidrovias has always worked within the highest Environmental, Social and Governance (“ESG”) standards, constantly evaluated by audits from international multilateral agencies, such as the World Bank – IFC (International Finance Corporation). In addition, Hidrovias maintains all the environmental licenses required by the competent authorities.

The IFC has financed some of the world’s most environmentally destructive projects, so its endorsement in itself is not particularly persuasive. But even on its own terms, the IFC’s study of the Blackstone project calls the project’s sustainability into question. Transporting soy or grain by waterway is indeed a less carbon-intensive method of transport, the IFC correctly noted in its report. But, it went on, that assessment doesn’t take into account the reality that “the construction of the Miritituba port, close to still-intact areas of the Amazon forest, is likely to lower transport costs for farmers and thereby accelerate conversion of natural habitats into agricultural areas, particularly for soy production.”

The project is OK, the bank argued, because Hidrovias and its clients can be trusted to be responsible, and that “the Miritituba port is being purpose-built to handle soy traded only by responsible traders who are sensitive to the preservation of natural habitats.” The bank assured that “100% of the company’s transport capacity in the North System is contracted to large trading companies, which observe high levels of governance and abide by the Amazon Soy Moratorium. The Moratorium, which prohibits purchasing soy produced on illegally deforested lands, was originally negotiated in 2006 between the big traders, Greenpeace, and Brazilian authorities. It has been renewed on a yearly basis since then.”

The moratorium, however, is only as strong as the government’s ability to monitor it. Proving that soy was grown on illegally deforested lands is highly difficult, as land-grabbers move quickly to clear forest and sell the newly cleared land to ranchers or agribusiness operators who quickly put it into cultivation and later claim that they had no way of knowing it was illegally deforested. The scheme also presumes that the government is interested in regulating agribusiness; the Bolsonaro administration has been quite explicit that it is not interested in doing so, putting top agribusiness officials in key posts, while defunding regulatory agencies.

And even if it were somehow true that all of the soy shipped from the Hidrovias port met all the requirements of the moratorium, commodity markets are fluid. A new port for the big traders eases congestion and lowers transportation costs elsewhere for smaller traders, thereby encouraging more development and more cultivation. (The IFC noted that Hidrovias promised to watch its soy clients closely: “HDB will establish and maintain internal procedures to review clients’ compliance with all provisions of Amazon Soy Moratorium or any other relevant legal requirements aimed at preventing trade in soy produced in illegally deforested areas. If the purpose of the port or the mix of HDB’s clients changes, the company will advise IFC of such changes and may be required to undertake further due diligence to ensure that these do not lead to undesirable indirect impacts.”)

The final justification the IFC made for the project comes down to incrementalism. Other development is also happening, the bank noted, so this single port can only cause so much harm. It concluded that “the port’s incremental contribution to the overall reduction of transport costs is judged to be marginal, given the myriad other factors (paving of B.R.-163, installation of other ports in Miritituba district, etc.) that are contributing to development in the region.” Bolsonaro has plans to pave significantly more roads in the Amazon that have otherwise been impassable much of the year, a project made feasible by international financing.

Of course, Hidrovias is also involved in paving B.R.-163 and other development projects in the region. Those projects, such as the paving of the highway, have additional indirect — though entirely predictable — consequences, as they spur side roads that make previously difficult-to-reach areas of the Amazon accessible for mining, logging, or further deforestation.

A Blackstone spokesperson noted that the fund only owns 9.3 percent of Hidrovias. But that ignores the 55.8 percent of Hidrovias that is owned by Pátria Investimentos. On Hidrovias’s website, Pátria is described as a company “in partnership with Blackstone,” and it is known in the financial industry to be a Blackstone company. A November 2018 article in Private Equity News about Bolsonaro’s election was headlined: “Blackstone’s Pátria: Brazilian Democracy is Not in Danger.”

It quoted the company’s chief economist assuring the public that “descent into authoritarianism is exceedingly unlikely.” That prediction has not borne out terribly well, but Blackstone appears to remain a strong supporter of Bolsonaro. The Brazilian president traveled to New York in May to be honored at a gala, which was sponsored by Refinitiv — a company majority-owned by Blackstone.

Ryan Grim is the author of “We’ve Got People: From Jesse Jackson to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the End of Big Money and the Rise of a Movement.”

« Last Edit: August 28, 2019, 06:04:03 AM by Surly1 »
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The Proud Boys’ Real Target
« Reply #177 on: August 28, 2019, 05:58:10 AM »
When Ashhole was last seen in these precincts, he was extolling the virtues of the Proud Boys while decrying the "menace" of antifa, positing a false equivalency, the last argument of outgunned extremists everywhere. ("good people on both sides," don't you know.) Hre's a firsthand report from the ground at Portland.

Those who want to minimize these blackshirt groups do so at their peril, while ignoring history.

The death toll ascribed to antifa remains at zero.

The Proud Boys’ Real Target
They are endangering both American citizens and American ideals at large.

The Proud Boys’ Real Target

They are endangering both American citizens and American ideals at large.


Updated at 10:30 a.m. ET on August 25, 2019.

I haven’t seen Justice Hans Linde in more than a decade, but I thought of him last Saturday, when I found myself locked in a science museum with frightened parents and children while neofascist thugs marched by. Hans was a child in Weimar Germany; I suspect he would have known how I was feeling.

The museum was the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, in Portland. The occasion was a rally organized by the Proud Boys, an all-male group that exalts “Western values” and promotes Islamophobia. Other affiliated groups joined in—a loose conglomeration of racists, chauvinists, and just plain thugs. Some of them were connected to the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, two years ago, at which a right-wing marcher drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing a woman named Heather Heyer. The Proud Boys aren’t from Portland, but they have selected the Rose City as the site for their rallies, threats, and clashes with local “antifa,” or antifascist activists. The rally Saturday was nominally to demand that Portland suppress the antifa groups so that the Proud Boys can march unopposed whenever they choose.

As a washed-up reporter who covered 1960s street protests, I felt the impulse to watch what happened when the Proud Boys confronted both police and a mix of local groups, some seemingly violent and others committed to overwhelming the occasion with harmless absurdity. (Some dressed as bananas, others in unicorn costumes.)

But Saturday was a family day. I was with my son, my daughter-in-law, and two little boys under five years old. We did not want my grandchildren anywhere near fascists. The Portland police bureau had published a map promising that OMSI, across the river from the planned site of the rally, would be safe. Alas, as police defused the main rally, some of the fascists found their way across the river and marched past the museum.

While the kids played in the beautiful Science Playground, the public-address system announced that the museum was in “lockup”; no one could enter or leave until further notice. We could not see the street; none of the staff knew what was going on; no one could tell us how long the lockup would last; no one knew whether the marchers might assemble in front of the museum, making escape impossible.

In any event, the group of marchers near the museum was apparently relatively small; within a few minutes, the lockup was lifted. But the walk back to the light-rail system through a stark industrial area was, for me at least, heart-in-mouth. We had no place to hide on the street if something went wrong. When we made it back to our hotel, I felt relief, unreality, and fury.

Citywide, the rally was largely anticlimactic; Portland police kept marchers and counterprotesters separate. Only after the main event ended did sporadic violence occur. Willamette Week described the aftermath as

a game of cat-and-mouse that felt more like a Tom and Jerry cartoon—and kept the two groups more than a mile apart at all times, even as some said they wanted a confrontation. Police made 13 arrests, and the few moments of violence arrived mainly as the right-wing groups attempted to leave downtown in two small buses. Antifascists were seen on videos shattering the bus windows, and a right-wing protester appeared to attack the leftists from inside the bus with a hammer.

I am glad the violence was not worse. But I’m sure I will never forget that moment in the museum. It was the second time in one week that my family’s vacation was disrupted by groups simulating a war zone on Oregon streets. The previous Saturday, we had planned to show my grandchildren the sheer magic of Eugene’s Saturday Market, where artisans sell their own creations, local bands perform, and farmers offer fresh produce from all over the lush Willamette Valley. But then a shadowy group calling itself “God, Guns, and Trump” (later changed to “God, Guns, and Liberty”) announced a pro-gun rally across the street from the market. The group’s Facebook post proclaimed that only “bold conservatives” should attend; those who had no firearms, it suggested, should buy them for the occasion. The group told those who wanted to march with Confederate or Nazi flags to stay away.

That rally was largely peaceful, with counterprotesters tangling with marchers using only words. But we couldn’t have predicted that in advance. Saturday Market was out. Who would bring a child near this unknown threat, only days after the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio? Across the river, meanwhile, Eugene’s LGBTQ community was holding its Pride rally. That gathering went on as planned, but there was anxiety throughout the city.

What has this to do with Hans Linde? Hans was born in 1924 to a prosperous Jewish family in Berlin. He once told me that his first clear memory was of watching from the family apartment while Nazis in brown shirts brawled with Communists on the Kurfürstendamm below. When Jewish life in Germany became untenable, the Lindes relocated to Denmark, and then, by good fortune, obtained U.S. visas. The Lindes settled in Portland; Hans attended Oregon public schools, and then Reed College, in the city’s Eastmoreland neighborhood. He served in the Army, attended law school at UC Berkeley, and began a brilliant career as a U.S. Supreme Court clerk, a Senate aide, a law professor, and finally the greatest justice ever to serve on the Oregon Supreme Court. I came to know Linde because, many years ago, I wrote a profile of him.

Linde’s jurisprudence sparked a national movement to revive judges’ interest in the constitutions of American states. State courts, Linde said, should construe their state’s constitution first before diving into the Supreme Court’s federal case law; a state constitutional text might make a federal ruling unnecessary. Linde left the bench nearly two decades ago, but his “first things first” approach lives on. As recently as last year, Judge Jeffrey Sutton of the Sixth Circuit, in his book, 51 Imperfect Solutions: States and the Making of American Constitutional Law, called on state judges to “revive Linde’s idea—to make constitutional arguments the first line of defense in individual rights disputes.”

Perhaps the most important legacy of the Linde years were his opinions interpreting Oregon’s free-speech guarantee much more broadly than the federal First Amendment. That protection has helped preserve Oregon’s wide-open democratic culture, where ideas from the Neanderthal to the utopian can contend, and where human experience comes in many shades.

That very culture, I suspect, is what has drawn out-of-state fascist leaders to focus on Portland. From years of study—and personal experience—I know about Oregon’s dark racist past and the shadow it casts over the state today. Nonetheless, in recent years, leaders here have worked to create an inclusive culture—one that the fascists would like to discredit, stigmatize, and eventually destroy. Since the Saturday demonstration, the Proud Boys have announced that they will be back every month until the City suppresses the antifa movement, whom they call “domestic terrorists.”

The impudence is striking. The Proud Boys are threatening violence to achieve political change. That is the textbook definition of terrorism. Moreover, even before Charlottesville, domestic terrorism had emerged as a danger from people motivated by the far-right ideology—that is, from the political forces (if not the actual individuals) now demanding that the government crush their enemies so that they can own the streets. Consider a very partial list of horrendous crimes motivated by right-wing racism, misogyny, and anti-Semitism: a mass killing at an African American church in Charleston, South Carolina; pipe bombs sent to public figures who oppose Donald Trump; a massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue; and 20 people—mostly Latino—gunned down at an El Paso Walmart.

Read: The lost boys

Meanwhile, some antifa protesters have worn masks or armor, or have shouted down speakers; some beat up the conservative journalist Andy Ngo at a demonstration earlier this year; some have thrown milkshakes, and some have threatened violence or physically fought at right-wing rallies. But the number of mass shootings committed by people identified with antifa is zero, and so is the number of lives taken. The demonstrators that trapped my family in the museum were there to disrupt the politics of a city they have no stake in. Many, if not most, of the counterprotesters were there to defend their hometown. Most of them were nonviolent and came to oppose violence.

Having lived in the Northwest for many years, I am familiar with left-wing forces that use violent tactics. Violence is self-defeating and morally wrong, and I want no part of it or them. But there is simply no equivalence here.

Although no major political figure has embraced antifa activism, the Republican Party has begun to embrace the Proud Boys. Last fall, the Metropolitan Republican Club invited a Proud Boys leader to speak at a club event. (After the event, two Proud Boys beat four protesters so badly that a jury on Monday convicted two of them on charges of assault and riot.) The Republican activist Roger Stone has said he was initiated as a Proud Boy, and Proud Boys appeared at a federal courthouse when he turned himself in on charges brought by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Stone and the Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson posed in the Fox greenroom with two Proud Boys accompanying Stone.

This summer, Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Bill Cassidy are sponsoring a resolution that would designate antifa as a “domestic terrorist group.” No mention of the Proud Boys or any of the other neofascist groups who feel empowered by the ascent of Trump.

But the group’s greatest triumph came on the morning of last Saturday’s march. Trump tweeted, “Major consideration is being given to naming ANTIFA an ‘ORGANIZATION OF TERROR.’ Portland is being watched very closely. Hopefully the Mayor will be able to properly do his job!” One Proud Boy leader hailed the tweet as part of the protest’s aim: “We wanted national attention and we got it,” the organizer Joe Biggs told The Oregonian. “Mission success.”

Linde’s life was shaped by gangs of thugs deployed to shatter democratic order and impose racist dictatorship. Portland provided his family a haven and a life as citizens of a democratic nation.

Now the right has targeted Linde’s haven for destruction. The real target, though, is not Portland or antifa but all of us, and our sense of security that we are free citizens of a democratic nation, free to take our children downtown to play or to assemble peacefully to advocate values that the Republican Party does not approve. That party under Trump is now taking sides in the uneven war in Portland’s streets—and it is taking the dangerously wrong side.

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« Last Edit: August 28, 2019, 06:02:53 AM by Surly1 »
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James Mattis: The Man Who Couldn’t Take It Anymore
« Reply #178 on: August 30, 2019, 04:50:03 AM »
This is long, but rewarding. And it as thoughtful as are most pieces by The Atlantic.
The irony that the man with the sobriquet "Mad dog" was the most sane individual in the White House should be lost on no one.

The Man Who Couldn’t Take It Anymore
“I had no choice but to leave,” General James Mattis says of his decision to resign as President Trump’s secretary of defense.

General James Mattis, photographed in his office at Stanford University, June 10, 2019
Christie Hemm Klok

on december 19 of last year, Admiral Michael Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met James Mattis for lunch at the Pentagon. Mattis was a day away from resigning as Donald Trump’s secretary of defense, but he tends to keep his own counsel, and he did not suggest to Mullen, his friend and former commander, that he was thinking of leaving.

But Mullen did think Mattis appeared unusually afflicted that day. Mattis often seemed burdened in his role. His aides and friends say he found the president to be of limited cognitive ability, and of generally dubious character. Now Mattis was becoming more and more isolated in the administration, especially since the defenestration of his closest Cabinet ally, the former secretary of state Rex Tillerson, several months earlier. Mattis and Tillerson had together smothered some of Trump’s more extreme and imprudent ideas. But now Mattis was operating without cover. Trump was turning on him publicly; two months earlier, he had speculated that Mattis might be a Democrat and said, in reference to NATO, “I think I know more about it than he does.” (Mattis, as a Marine general, once served as the supreme allied commander in charge of NATO transformation.)

Mullen told me recently that service in this administration comes with a unique set of hazards, and that Mattis was not unaware of these hazards. “I think back to his ‘Hold the line’ talk, the one that was captured on video,” Mullen said, referring to an impromptu 2017 encounter between Mattis and U.S. troops stationed in Jordan that became a YouTube sensation. In the video, Mattis tells the soldiers, “Our country right now, it’s got problems we don’t have in the military. You just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it.” Mullen said: “He obviously found himself in a challenging environment.”

Mullen’s concern for Mattis was shared by many other generals and admirals, active duty and retired, who worried that sustained exposure to Trump would destroy their friend, who is perhaps the most revered living marine. Mattis had maintained his dignity in perilous moments, even as his fellow Cabinet officials were relinquishing theirs. At a ritualized praise session at the White House in June 2017, as the vice president and other Cabinet members abased themselves before the president, Mattis would offer only this generic—but, given the circumstances, dissident—thought: “It’s an honor to represent the men and women of the Department of Defense. We are grateful for the sacrifices our people are making in order to strengthen our military, so our diplomats always negotiate from a position of strength.”

To some of his friends, though, Mattis was beginning to place his reputation at risk. He had, in the fall of 2018, acquiesced to Trump’s deployment of troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, and he was becoming contemptuous of a Pentagon press corps that was trying to perform its duty in difficult circumstances.

By last December, Mattis was facing the most urgent crisis of his nearly two years in the Cabinet. Trump had just announced, contrary to his administration’s stated policy, that he would withdraw all American troops from Syria, where they were fighting the Islamic State. This sudden (and ultimately reversed) policy shift posed a dire challenge to Mattis’s beliefs. He had spent much of his career as a fighter in the Middle East. He had battled Islamist extremists and understood the danger they represented. He believed that a retreat from Syria would threaten the security of American troops elsewhere in the region, and would especially threaten America’s allies in the anti-ISIS coalition. These allies would, in Mattis’s view, feel justifiably betrayed by Trump’s decision.

“I had no idea that he was on the precipice of resigning,” Mullen told me. “But I know how strongly he believes in alliances. The practical reasons become moral reasons. Most of us believe that we’ve moved on as a country from being able to do it alone. We may have had dreams about this in 1992 or 1993, but we’ve moved on. We have to have friends and supporters. And we’re talking about Jim Mattis. He’s not going to change his view on this. He’s not going to leave friends and allies on the battlefield.”

That afternoon, Mattis called John Kelly, the former Marine general who was then nearing the end of his calamitous run as Trump’s chief of staff. “I need an hour with the boss,” Mattis said.

The next day, he met Trump in the Oval Office. Mattis made his case for keeping troops in Syria. Trump rejected his arguments. Thirty minutes into the conversation, Mattis told the president, “You’re going to have to get the next secretary of defense to lose to ISIS. I’m not going to do it.” He handed Trump his resignation letter, a letter that would soon become one of the most famous documents of the Trump presidency thus far.

Here is where I am compelled to note that I did not learn any of these details from Mattis himself. Nor did I learn them from his new book, Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, which he wrote with the former Marine officer Bing West. The book is an instructive and entertaining leadership manual for executives, managers, and military officers. Mattis is a gifted storyteller, and his advice will be useful to anyone who runs anything. The book is not, however, an account of his time in service to the 45th president.

General James Mattis
General James Mattis, photographed in his office at Stanford University, June 10, 2019 (Christie Hemm Klok)

I’ve known Mattis for many years, and we spent several hours in conversation this summer, at his home in Richland, Washington, and at the Hoover Institution, on the campus of Stanford University. In these conversations, we discussed the qualities of effective leadership, the workings of command-and-feedback loops, the fragility of what he calls the American experiment, fishing the Columbia River, the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, and many other topics. But about Trump he was mainly silent. I caught glimpses of anger and incredulity, to be sure. But Mattis is a disciplined man. While discipline is an admirable quality, in my conversations with Mattis I found it exasperating, because I believe that the American people should hear his answer to this question: Is Donald Trump fit for command?

He should answer the question well before November 3, 2020. Mattis is in an unparalleled position to provide a definitive answer. During moments of high tension with North Korea, he had worried that being out of reach of the president for more than a few seconds constituted a great risk. No one, with the possible exception of John Kelly, has a better understanding of Donald Trump’s capacities and inclinations, particularly in the realm of national security, than James Mattis.

I made this argument to him during an interview at his home, a modest townhouse in a modest development in a modest town. Mattis, who is 69, is single, and has always been so. His house serves mainly as a library of the literature of war and diplomacy, and as a museum of ceremonial daggers, the residue of a lifetime of official visits to army headquarters across the Middle East. The decor reminded me of one of his sayings: “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

I knew that this would be a Gallipoli of an interview, and that Mattis would be playing the role of the Ottoman gunners. But I had to try.

“When you go out on book tour,” I said, “people are going to want you to say things you don’t want to say.” I mentioned a scene from the book, one that concerned an ultimately successful effort to untangle a traffic jam of armored vehicles in Iraq. I noted that while this story is an edifying case study in effective leadership, it is not necessarily the sort of story that people want from him right now.

“Yeah,” he said.

“You’re prepared for that? For people wanting you to talk about Trump?”

He paused.

“Do you know the French concept of devoir de réserve?” he asked.

I did not, I said.

“The duty of silence. If you leave an administration, you owe some silence. When you leave an administration over clear policy differences, you need to give the people who are still there as much opportunity as possible to defend the country. They still have the responsibility of protecting this great big experiment of ours. I know the malevolence some people feel for this country, and we have to give the people who are protecting us some time to carry out their duties without me adding my criticism to the cacophony that is right now so poisonous.”

“But duty manifests in other ways,” I argued. “You have a First Amendment guarantee to speak your mind—”


“And don’t you have a duty to warn the country if it is endangered by its leader?”

“I didn’t cook up a convenient tradition here,” he said. “You don’t endanger the country by attacking the elected commander in chief. I may not like a commander in chief one fricking bit, but our system puts the commander in chief there, and to further weaken him when we’re up against real threats—I mean, we could be at war on the Korean peninsula, every time they start launching something.”

The subject of North Korea represented my best chance to wrench a direct answer from Mattis. I had collected some of Trump’s more repellent tweets, and read aloud the one that I thought might overwhelm his defenses. It is a tweet almost without peer in the canon:

Trump Tweet: 

North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me. I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me, & also smiled when he called Swampman Joe Biden a low IQ individual, & worse. Perhaps that’s sending me a signal?

55.2K people are talking about this

Mattis looked at his hands. Finally he said, “Any Marine general or any other senior servant of the people of the United States would find that, to use a mild euphemism, counterproductive and beneath the dignity of the presidency.”

He went on, “Let me put it this way. I’ve written an entire book built on the principles of respecting your troops, respecting each other, respecting your allies. Isn’t it pretty obvious how I would feel about something like that?”

It is. When Call Sign Chaos is refracted through the prism of our hallucinatory political moment, it becomes something more than a primer for middle managers. The book is many things, apart from a meditation on leadership. It is the autobiography of a war fighter, and also an extended argument for a forceful, confident, alliance-centered U.S. foreign policy. Read another way, though, it is mainly a 100,000-word subtweet.

When I mentioned this notion to Mattis, he looked at me curiously. He is not closely acquainted with the language of social media. When I explained what a subtweet is, he said, “Well, you saw that my resignation letter is in the book.”

It comes near the end. Each chapter contains a lesson about personal leadership, or American leadership, or some combination of the two: “Coach and encourage, don’t berate, least of all in public.” “Public humiliation does not change our friends’ behavior or attitudes in a positive way.” “Operations occur at the speed of trust.” “Nations with allies thrive, and those without wither.” And then comes the resignation letter, a repudiation of a man who models none of Mattis’s principles:

While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies …

My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.

Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.

“I had no choice but to leave,” he told me. “That’s why the letter is in the book. I want people to understand why I couldn’t stay. I’ve been informed by four decades of experience, and I just couldn’t connect the dots anymore.”

Later, during a long walk along the Columbia River, I gave it another go, asking him to describe in broad terms the nature of Trump’s leadership abilities. “I’m happy to talk about leadership,” he said. “My model—one of my models—is George Washington. Washington’s idea of leadership was that first you listen, then you learn, then you help, and only then do you lead. It is a somewhat boring progression, but it’s useful. What you try to do in that learning phase is find common ground.”

“So on one end of the spectrum is George Washington, and at the other end is Donald Trump?”

Mattis smiled. “It’s a beautiful river, isn’t it?” he said. “I used to swim it all the time when I was a kid. Strong current.”

in mid-august I checked in with Mattis, to see whether events over the summer—Trump’s attack on four congresswomen of color; his attack on Representative Elijah Cummings; his attacks on other minorities; his endorsement-by-tweet of the North Korean dictator’s “great and beautiful vision” for his country; the El Paso massacre, conducted by a white supremacist whose words echoed those often used by Trump and his supporters when discussing immigration—might have led him to reconsider his decorous approach to public criticism of the president.

About El Paso he said: “You know, on that day we were all Hispanics. That’s the way we have to think about this. If it happens to any one of us, it happens to all of us.”

But about this treacherous political moment?

“You’ve got to avoid looking at what’s happening in isolation from everything else,” he said. “We can’t hold what Trump is doing in isolation. We’ve got to address the things that put him there in the first place.” Mattis speaks often about affection: the affection that commanders feel for their soldiers, and that soldiers ought to feel for one another—and the affection that Americans should feel for one another and for their country but often, these days, don’t. “ ‘With malice toward none, with charity for all,’ ” he said. “Lincoln said that in the middle of a war. In the middle of a war! He could see beyond the hatred of the moment.”

I thought back to what he’d told me earlier in the summer, when I had asked him to describe something Trump could say or do that would trigger him to launch a frontal attack on the president. He’d demurred, as I had expected. But then he’d issued a caveat: “There is a period in which I owe my silence. It’s not eternal. It’s not going to be forever.”

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

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‘This Will Teach You Next Time,’ 911 Dispatcher Told Arkansas Woman Who Later Drowned.
Debbie Stevens was delivering morning newspapers in her S.U.V. when she was swept away by floodwaters in Fort Smith, Ark.

Debbie Stevens, 47, made two frantic phone calls: One to her mother-in-law, and another to 911 to beg for help.via Facebook

It was still dark out in Fort Smith, Ark., as Debbie Stevens tended to her newspaper delivery route as she had for more than 20 years.

That’s when her gray Mazda S.U.V. was swept up by quickly rising floodwaters from heavy rainfall. She first called her mother-in-law, who was also driving a paper route, but hung up and called 911 at 4:38 a.m., as the water rose to her car window. Ms. Stevens, 47, spent the next 22 minutes on the phone with an emergency dispatcher frantically pleading for help and saying that she could not swim.

The dispatcher, Donna Reneau, repeatedly told a sobbing Ms. Stevens to calm down. “This will teach you next time, don’t drive in the water,” she said, according to a recording of the call that was released by the police. “You put yourself in danger,” she added.

Ms. Stevens drowned in her vehicle on Aug. 24 before emergency responders reached her, according to a police statement. Audio from the 911 call captured her last moments, and at times Ms. Reneau seemed frustrated and dismissive of Ms. Stevens’s panic.

Ms. Reneau did not respond to phone calls or emails requesting comment on Sunday.

Aric Mitchell, a spokesman for the Fort Smith Police Department, said that Ms. Reneau, a certified training operator, had handed in her resignation on Aug. 9. Ms. Stevens’s call was taken during her last shift, he said.

The police statement called the operator’s words “calloused and uncaring at times,” but said “sincere efforts were being made to locate and save Mrs. Stevens.”

“We were working diligently to get to her; we were doing everything that we possibly could to save her,” Danny Baker, the department’s interim chief, said during a news conference on Thursday.

“None of us take this lightly,” he said. “It’s never an easy thing to have an opportunity to save someone’s life and then not be able to do that.”

“I know that that dispatcher is equally upset about the outcome of this and the fact that she was not able to save Mrs. Stevens,” he added.

Mr. Mitchell said that the department had received several flood-related calls that night, and that there had been no other fatalities. The department was compiling Ms. Reneau’s employment record, which Mr. Mitchell described as “largely clean.”

Minutes after Ms. Stevens called, the Fire Department and a police unit were dispatched to the scene. The emergency responders arrived in fewer than 10 minutes, but they could not locate Ms. Stevens’s vehicle, the statement said.

The flash flood had swept Ms. Stevens’s vehicle off the road and into a copse of trees. The water was rising around her car as she waited for rescue.

“It’s all the way up to my neck,” Ms. Stevens said to Ms. Reneau. “I’m the only one in the vehicle with all of my papers floating around me. Please help me. I don’t want to die.”

Ms. Reneau responded: “You’re not going to die. Just hold on.”

Donna Reneau, the dispatcher who took Ms. Stevens’s call, handed in her resignation on Aug. 9, a police spokesman said.FSPD
The main roadways were blocked by water. A boat was requested just before the call between Ms. Stevens and the dispatcher was disconnected, according to the police.

Moments before the call ended, Ms. Stevens started screaming that she could not breathe. “Ms. Debbie, you are breathing just fine because you are screaming at me,” Ms. Reneau responded. “I need you to calm down.”

When Ms. Stevens did not respond, Ms. Reneau said, “Oh, my God, it sounds like she’s underwater now.”

The responders located Ms. Stevens’s vehicle shortly after the call ended, but the rushing water prevented an officer, armed with a life vest and a rope, from reaching the vehicle. The rescue boat arrived nearly 15 minutes later, and it took the responders another 45 minutes to make their way to her.

Just before 6 a.m., rescuers pulled Ms. Stevens from the vehicle and tried to resuscitate her, but she had already drowned, the police statement said.

“I am heartbroken for this tragic loss of life and my prayers are with Debra’s family and friends,” Chief Baker said in the statement.

“All of our first responders who attempted to save Mrs. Stevens are distraught over the outcome,” he said. “For every one of us, saving lives is at the very core of who we are and why we do what we do. When we are unsuccessful, it hurts.”

After the episode, the Police Department started an internal investigation into response policies and dispatch center training, Chief Baker said at the news conference. Ms. Reneau will not be investigated because she no longer works for the department, he said.

Chief Baker told KFTA, a local television station, that no action would be taken against Ms. Reneau because she had not done anything criminally wrong.

Rebeca Stewart, Ms. Stevens’s sister-in-law, told the station that Ms. Stevens “had a heart of gold and would do anything for anyone.”

Neil Vigdor contributed reporting.

Mariel Padilla is a reporter covering national breaking news for the Express desk, based in New York. @marielpadilla_
« Last Edit: September 02, 2019, 11:15:26 AM by Surly1 »
"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."