More Rain | 15 New Cases | Aged Hitter | Storm Clouds | Body-Dump ID | Lyle Arnold | Noisy Nuisances | Snowfall | Dirty Electricity | Gemini Tree-Sit | Slip Out | Ed Notes | Colored Water | Help Dammit | 57 Plymouth | Police Interaction | Insanity Squared | Memory Bear | Yesterday's Catch | Glass-Bottom Boat | War-Criminal Powell | Computer Love | Middle Stuck | Bogie Lift | Power | Surfer Stunts | The Bidens | Tad & Abe | Heroine Haugen
WET AND UNSETTLED WEATHER will continue through Monday of next week. Periods of heavy rain are expected, especially Thursday night and again on Sunday. Strong and gusty winds are also expected with each storm. (NWS)
LAST NIGHT'S RAINFALL: Yorkville 1.16", Boonville 1.01", Laytonville .61", Hopland .59", Leggett .56", Willits .47", Ukiah .24", Covelo .22"
15 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County yesterday afternoon.
FORT BRAGG HIT&RUN SOLVED: Police Decline To Identify 91 Year Old Driver/Suspect
On October 12th, 2021, Officers responded to the intersection of Oak Street and Main Street for the report of a traffic collision with injury. On scene, Officers learned from multiple witnesses that 39 year old Brandon Bazor had been struck by vehicle while crossing the crosswalk. The driver who struck Brandon left the scene without stopping. Brandon was transported to the hospital via ambulance and is still recovering from his injuries.
Initial witnesses of the collision provided drastically different descriptions of the suspect vehicle including color, make and model. This is not uncommon during critical incidents and our Officers immediately began pursuing all leads. Over the next five days, Officers would obtain surveillance video from approximately fifteen businesses, organizations and residences, over an approximately three mile stretch of the area. Our Department then began the time-intensive process of piecing the videos together to learn where the suspect vehicle travelled both before and after the collision. As many of the time stamps on the videos were incorrect or off by up to ten minutes, this required Officers to match passing vehicles in different videos several blocks apart in order to continue to follow the suspect vehicle. Further complicating the investigation was that there were three vehicles in the immediate area with similar descriptions, vehicle shapes, and colors. This information combined with the various qualities of surveillance video obtained, and conflicting witness statements, made it difficult to continue to follow the vehicles as they travelled around town.
The original white Subaru Outback this Department suspected of being the vehicle involved in the collision was located on Saturday, October 16th, 2021. The owner of that vehicle was contacted and they fully cooperated with the investigation. This Department was able to completely rule them out as a suspect by Sunday afternoon.
Officers re-directed their efforts with one vehicle eliminated, and was able to identify the suspect vehicle as a silver Chevrolet Bolt. With a more accurate vehicle description, our Department was able to expand its search and follow the vehicle southbound out of Fort Bragg. Additionally, the local dealerships and service stations cooperated with our Department by supplying all records related to Chevrolet Bolt’s being sold or serviced in the area. Using that information, Officers were able to narrow their search to the suspect living somewhere south of Fort Bragg.
On Monday October 18, 2021, Officers located the suspect vehicle south of Fort Bragg and conducted a traffic enforcement stop on the vehicle. During the stop, Officers located damage to the vehicle supporting that it was the suspect vehicle. Upon interviewing the driver of the vehicle, Officers learned that on the day of the collision the vehicle was being driven by the current driver’s 91-year old father. The father was later contacted and interviewed, and Officers were able to utilize the father’s statement to track the vehicle through Fort Bragg to include being involved in the collision. The 91-year old driving the vehicle at the time of the collision denied knowing they were involved in the collision but admitted to being present at the approximate time the collision occurred.
This investigation will be forwarded to the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office for review for prosecution. The suspect vehicle has been seized as evidence, and the driver’s license of the suspect has been revoked pending an emergency re-evaluation by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The suspect name has been withheld with permission of the victim’s family.
The Fort Bragg Police Department would like to thank the countless businesses, organizations and residents that assisted with their time and efforts in providing the video surveillance used to solve this case. We would also like to thank the public for their time and patience, as we worked through what was a complex and difficult investigation. With an estimated 80% of hit-and-run collisions going unsolved nationwide, it was with the community’s help that our Department was successful in this investigation.
Those wishing to support Brandon Bazor in what is expected to be a costly and difficult recovery may send donations to the Savings Bank of Mendocino County referencing Account #04254355.
HERE COMES THE FIRST REAL STORM OF THE SEASON.
DEAD MAN IN TRUNK IDENTIFIED
A man whose body was found earlier this month in the trunk of a vehicle near Covelo has been identified as a 51-year-old Stanislaus County man, according to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.
The Sheriff’s Office identified Marco Antonio Barrera Beltran of Ceres on Tuesday. He came to Ceres from Michoacan, Mexico, according to Capt. Greg Van Patten, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman.
His body was found Oct. 3 in the 27000 block of Mendocino Pass Road by a California Fish and Wildlife warden who was checking on the vehicle, Van Patten said.
The death is being investigated as a homicide, according to Van Patten, who did not immediately respond to a request for additional details about the case.
Van Patten said because of the nature of the case, which he described as a “body-dump type of murder,” the Sheriff’s Office investigation is expected to take “an extended amount of time to complete.”
— Matt Pera, Santa Rosa Press Democrat
COMPARE & CONTRAST:
Former Supervisor John McCowen:
Regarding use of frost fans for cannabis Jim Shields wrote: “California, like other states, has a Right to Farm Act that is intended to protect agricultural activity, and many counties have their own local right to farm ordinances as well.
The intent of these types of laws is to protect farmers who use accepted and standard farming practices from nuisance lawsuits in certain circumstances. In California, at the state level, cannabis cultivation is not considered “agricultural” such that it would be eligible for protection under the Right to Farm Act. But in some counties, local ordinances do define cannabis cultivation as agricultural activity, giving cannabis cultivators protection under local right to farm ordinances.
I discussed this situation with 3rd District Supe John Haschak on my Saturday radio program, and he’s also looking into it, and will get back to me.”
Mendocino County specifically excludes cannabis from protections under the Right to Farm Act. Given that the State has excluded cannabis cultivation from the definition of agricultural activity it’s not clear if a local ordinance extending Right to Farm protections to cannabis would be upheld if it were challenged.
The County responded today (Monday) to complaints filed regarding the weed frost fans:
“I wanted to reach out to you concerning the complaints you logged with us regarding the loud fan noise at the Henry’s Original site on Mulligan Road. I wanted to assure you that the County is fully aware of the problem, and that Code Enforcement is (and has been) actively investigating. Both our department and the Cannabis Program have been addressing the issue with the responsible party. He has assured the County that the fan should no longer be in use. I would also like to assure you that the Cannabis Program will be pursuing a number of accountability measures with the responsible party, and that moving forward the County will be ensuring that all codes are strictly followed at this site.”
Mark Scaramella Summarizes:
Complaints in Laytonville about one pot grower turning on one loud wind fan for his chilly buds.
County Code Enforcement: We’re on it. They’re not exempt. That’s a nuisance.
Pot Grower: Apologies.
Complaints in Anderson Valley about dozens of wine grape growers turning on dozens of loud wind fans keeping thousands of people from an ordinary night’s sleep.
County Code Enforcement: Yep, there are a lot of ’em. Loud too. But too bad, even though they’re new to Anderson Valley and did not pre-exist the residents there, they’re exempt because these fans were used on pears in Ukiah in the 1950s. It’s “farming.”
Grape Grower: My grapes are more important than your sleep.
THE ELECTRIC CAR SCAM
Whenever the proud new owner of an all-electric vehicle sanctimoniously collars me to expound upon the virtues of his/her decision to buy the car, I counter with the same question: Did the car salesperson tell you where the electricity comes from to charge it? In every...single...case...the new car owner has turned a blank stare my way - a reaction that needs no further explanation. He or she clearly did not receive any such info and did not think to even ask the question. O critical thinking, where art thou?
If all you care about are the vehicle tailpipe emissions that befoul your own little corner of the world then brag away. But don't pretend that you've struck any kind of blow to climate change. Because you haven't.
California imports 25% of its electricity, more than twice as much as the second largest net electricity importer: Virginia. That electricity zaps at the speed of light along the transmission lines that connect all or part of 14 Western states, along with B,C., Alberta, and Northern Baja. The electricity that powers your computer as you read this could in any given second have originated in any of these states, including the heavy coal-producing states of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado. Sooo...to the extent that electricity demand in California continues to grow, imports have to date and are likely to continue to grow. So the tailpipe emissions you have avoided in your uber-expensive new car (which only the wealthy can afford: this is America, so the real winners in all this are the car manufacturers) in your pristine suburb have increased the coal-fired pollution that so heavily contributes planet-wide to climate change; emissions do not recognize state or national borders.
To be sure, California has made great strides in developing renewable resources. But baseload power - the big plants that operate reliably all the time - remain predominantly fossil-fueled. After all, here in entitled-land, if reliability were even slightly compromised in the name of all-renewable generation, Californians would be the first to shout "Off With Their Heads" to renewable energy producers who cooled their hot tubs. To be sure, California is admirably expanding intermittent sources like wind and solar. But we ain't there, yet.
“I WANT TO GROW OLD AND STRONG LIKE THIS TREE, and saving it is the first step” (Sorrel aged 15)
Late last week another tree sit went up in the Caspar 500 Timber Harvest plan. A young local by the name “Sorrel” climbed to the top of a large ~200 year old redwood tree slated to be cut to make room for another truck road.
This truck road is quite strange indeed with plenty of room to either side of many large redwoods, the decision was made instead to go through these large trees. Starting downhill on Rd 600, this road will climb steep terrain, through many large redwoods, weave back and forth over a marshy wet area multiple times, then terminate at a landing for turning and loading trucks. This landing is ~50 ft from a preexisting skid trail that links up to a preexisting truck road. The soil is already damaged and compacted, there are no large trees in the way, and is flat with far less erosion issues. Adding this road is a blatant excuse for cutting large trees.
“If you’ve been following our movement, you know that we have successfully stopped logging in the Caspar 500 timber harvest plan (THP) for close to four months! We’re not ones to rest on our laurels though, and we’re wary of an end of season push to remove these precious redwoods, so we’ve set up a perch in the “Gemini” tree near the kiosk. Gemini is over 18 feet around at the base and while she is not marked for cut she is slated for removal due to her presence in a proposed truck road. This is deplorable and we will not let it happen!”
As a community based movement, we rely on volunteers and donations to save these trees. Donate at https://savejackson.org/ or cash in person at the Gemini tree.
AS THE PILLARS of a community disappear, we tend not to notice they're gone until we need them. Bob Maki and WT Johnson of Starr Automotive, now Smith Automotive, are two such pillars. Fortunately, they still live in the Anderson Valley where I try not to disturb their hard-earned retirement. The new owners of Starr are named Smith, and the business is now called Smith Automotive. I met a young Smith up on the Peachland Road as he hauled wreckage up the side of a gulch. Pleasant, accommodating dude. I've been trying to reach him to ask if Smith Automotive will continue to offer Triple A emergency service because an alarmed local called to say he had to wait four hours for help when his vehicle broke down and that help came from All-In-One Towing in Ukiah. What to say? We've been spoiled for years by Bob and WT who've seemed to sleep with one eye open for years waiting for a call for help, faithfully rolling out of bed at the late hours to provide it. Smith is new to the Anderson Valley. They may be in the process of acquiring the AAA franchise, we hope, because otherwise…
TYPICAL praise for Mr. Maki: “I was returning from SCUBA diving on the North Coast of California, towing a buddy's inflatable boat. My truck packed with gear, and the boat with the light stuff. About ten miles down highway 128 the trailer bearings went. With no cell service, I had to drop the boat and drive to the nearest town. The locals in Navarro recommended that I call Starr Towing and that it could take as much as four hours for someone to get out this way. I called and Bob the owner said he'd be there in 45 min. He got there in 50 and carefully loaded the boat. It was Sunday, the bearing chewed up the hub and I was 200 miles from home. I was Screwed! Bob towed us to Ukiah and was able to repair the problem with new parts which were kept in the boat. I cannot tell you how great this guy is and a credit to his profession. THANK YOU Bob, and stay safe.”
ONE OF OUR more estranged commenters wrote, "Biden and the hideous Democrats aren't popular anymore, not programs that just might make America great again.' True enough. The national Democrats, with their reverse charisma, inspire zero hope, hence Poor Old Joe's difficulty selling his version of Making America Great Again. Joe's plan lacks specificity. Democrats being Democrats, i.e., Republicans Lite, single payer is off the table while vague billions marked for “global warming.” Etc. If I were Joe's handlers, I'd spend at least half those proposed trillions on a massive voucher plan guaranteeing Americans food, shelter, health care, and education. You need one or all, you get vouchers that pay for it. The other coupla trill go for falling down bridges and roads. America rejoices! Never happen because the entire system's entropy benefits its owners while the country falls apart, the globe warms, chaos commences.
ON THE SAME THEME, the Wall Street Journal, voice of plutocracy, recently offered a typical editorial, this one called “Big Government Isn't Popular Again.” Never was with WSJ readers and, of course, wacky and wrong. Big programs are unpopular? Try taking Social Security and Medicare away from America's gaffers. Single Payer for everyone, or Medicare for everyone, would be very popular, which is why the insurance combines and big pharma spend annual millions on our elected officials.
HELP WANTED, you uncaring bastards!
SISTER YASMIN WRITES: "Is anyone around here neighborly or kind, have a little extra time on your hands could drive a slightly disabled mature professional lady for short trips to the store, doctor apts, without charging a arm and a LEG! Perish the thought you could ever get impaired someday yourself; what happened to people who help you out when people are living in hard times? How about the bread lines and the recession! Selfish, judgmental community!! No not everyone!! SURE."
DAN BEST REPLIES: “You might get more responses if you were to include contact info and where you live. And leaving out the vitriol might also help. Believe it or not, the last thing I want to do is to go out of my way to drive a bitter old lady around on her errands.”
SHOW AND TELL
Since law enforcement is under constant review and scrutiny, I would like to see the same for public interactions with law enforcement. Respect for law starts at home. Perhaps a free dictionary included with all the free benefits could define what “stop,” “don’t run” and “show me your hands” actually mean. It’s not always police.
Hello Mr. Anderson & Mr. Livermore.
That was some article about Indiana Slim’s Red Hots band and the legendary Piano Jimmy. A pair of fascinating and completely opposite memories from those days. Whoever wrote that story was obviously there. So was I. I was the bass player in the Red Hots (and still play bass today with Indiana Slim, going on 35 years). I also booked some of the Red Hots gigs, including the now-famous gig at the Grapevine Station when Piano Jimmy pulled the plug on the Lookouts.
The Grapevine Station was a tiny highway grocery, feed store, and gas station halfway between Spy Rock Road and Bell Springs Road (now known as Area 101). It was very popular with both the Bell Springs and the Spy Rock communities, almost a social center where locals could find out what was happening, leave messages, gas up and grab a six-pack before heading up the hill.
The lady who owned the store was my Bell Springs neighbor and a close friend. Every summer she put on an annual customer appreciation party and, every year, she booked the Red Hots. She always came out of the store in the middle of our sets and tossed out dozens of little boxes of Red Hots candies.
Lawrence Livermore’s memories are very different than mine. The only time the Lookouts played that party was one year when Indiana Slim, without telling anyone, invited Lawrence’s band to play during one of our breaks. The Lookouts were loud and wild, the crowd was not exactly appreciative. Nor was the store owner. She came running over to me, furious, and said that her customers were leaving, that we either shut down the Lookouts, immediately, or she was ending the party. I walked over to Jimmy and told him we somehow needed to pull the plug, and, well, he did. He didn’t say a word, just yanked the power cord right out of the outlet.
That was the first, and last, time the Red Hots ever played with the Lookouts. Slim still loved the Lookouts (in fact he loved the entire chaotic scene when Jimmy pulled the plug), but he never invited them back. If Slim invited the Lookouts to play at the Laytonville gig when Jimmy slugged Lawrence, neither Jimmy nor I nor anyone else in the band knew anything about it. We had no idea why Lawrence was coming up to the bandstand that evening, which seemed curious considering the previous plug-pulling encounter.
I guess none of it really matters so many years later. But one thing that does matter: The sweet little girl, who we were playing a benefit for, didn’t drown in that terrible storm. The amazing and fearless Laytonville Fire Chief at the time, Lance Whitely, tied a rope around his waste, walked into a raging creek with rain pouring down, freed the girl from a broken footbridge, and carried her to safety. I was there. I have never seen anything like it before or since. I have to agree with the anonymous writer: Laytonville may have been poor and redneck and unsophisticated, but it was a much better neighbor-helping-neighbor town before pot money reared its greedy head.
BB Kamoroff, Laytonville
* * *
Lawrence Livermore Replies:
Memory can indeed play tricks on the soul, and I am no more immune to its persiflage than the next guy.
However, as the author of two memoirs and editor of several others, I have developed some techniques to minimize its damage, one of which is fact-checking everything and everyone, including (especially) myself. This has often exasperated those waiting on me for copy.
“How much can it matter,” they’ll demand, whether it was March or April when so-and-so said such-and-such to somebody whose name I can’t recall but who died at least 30 years ago”?
And I, plowing through the internet, old magazines and photos, and making phone calls to anyone who might have known Mr. or Ms. So-and-so, will reply, “It might not matter much at all, or it might matter a great deal, because even seemingly trivial details can alter the color or character of an event, not to mention offending or deeply wounding one or more of the parties involved.”
Unfortunately, this sort of fact-checking is rendered difficult, almost to the point of impossibility, when you’re dealing with the mostly oral tradition of the Mendocino and Humboldt hill people. Documentation is spotty at best, and attempts to accurately record events can meet with hostility or worse, as when a posse of angry marijuana growers threatened to burn my house down if I didn’t stop writing about events on “their” mountain. Even as recently as a couple of weeks ago, when, during a visit to Spy Rock, I was snapping some pictures of old, familiar landscapes. Someone quickly advised me to put my camera away lest I inadvertently capture an image of someone’s marijuana farm, which, unless you’re pointing straight up at the sky or straight down at the ground, is pretty difficult not to do.
So, when trying to get to the facts of a matter, whether it happened yesterday or a few decades ago, we mostly have to rely on fallible human memory, and, thankfully, old copies of Lookout magazine. Courtesy of the latter, I am forced to admit that Bear (I assume this is Bear, unless he has a hitherto unknown brother called BB) is correct and I was wrong about one of the vital details.
The Piano Jimmy plug-pulling incident was in fact at a Red Hots gig where Slim had asked us to do a guest set. Apparently I confused it with a previous show we’d done at Grapewine (not Grapevine) Station in the summer of 1985, which I did set up myself, and which featured the Lookouts and another Laytonville-area band called The Front. The Red Hots did not play that show, though I believe it may have been where I was first introduced to Slim by our mutual friend Michael Ferretta.
As for the Harwood Hall show (April 3, 1987), it’s quite possible that Slim didn’t bother telling the other members of his band that he’d asked us to play (he could be a bit of a prankster that way), so Jimmy may have been acting out of genuine umbrage. I’m also quite surprised to hear that the girl we were meant to be playing a benefit for had not actually died, but I won’t attribute that to a loss of memory: my understanding at the time (no doubt thanks to the colorful but seldom reliable bush telegraph on Spy Rock and Iron Peak) was that she had died; in fact I recall writing about it at the time. It’s good news to hear she survived. I also remember Lance Whitely, not that I knew him personally, but he was a well-respected and highly-thought-of member of the community.
It’s not completely true, as Bear says, that we never played with the Red Hots on any other occasion. There was that time Slim snuck us in the back door of the Crossroads, the somewhat more hippie-oriented tavern that briefly flourished across Highway 101 from longtime mainstay Boomer’s, to play a couple songs in the middle of a Red Hots set. The reason for the sneaking and the hit-and-run nature of our appearance was that our (future) Grammy award-winning drummer was still only 14 or 15 at the time. We seemed to get a much better reception that night, though it might only have been because people were drunk and/or we were gone before they realized what had happened.
I could quibble with a few other details, such as Bear’s assertion that Grapewine Station was “halfway” between Spy Rock and Bell Springs (it was twice as far to Bell Springs as to Spy Rock), but in the course of looking that up, I discovered that I too had misremembered the distances, placing Bell Springs a full four miles up the road from Spy Rock when it’s not even quite three. I remember Carol (then Bath, now Sylla), who ran the store for many years, and who I still see on Facebook (she’s up in Oregon now), and though we were not best buddies by a long shot, we had many a fine chat when I would stop in to pick up provisions.
I’ve had a few decent chats with Bear Kamoroff as well over the years, and he always struck me as one of the hippies (I hope he doesn’t bristle at that description) with integrity who originally made that region so fascinating and appealing to me. Though he can be argumentative and picayune at times, I could never claim to be any less so. I thank him for setting (some of) the record straight, for jogging my memory, and for prompting me to look more deeply into the “facts” I was sure I remembered so precisely.
CATCH OF THE DAY, October 19, 2021
JORDAN ALONSO, Fort Bragg. Attempted murder.
JAMES BRAY, Fort Bragg. Probation revocation.
LUIS CASTANEDA-BORGES, Fort Bragg. Domestic battery.
THOMAS GUYETTE JR., Lakeport/Ukiah. Controlled substance, suspended license, probation revocation.
JAMES HINSON, Jackson Springs, North Carolina/Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs, controlled substance.
TRAVIS HUMPHREY, Redwood Valley. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, failure to appear. (Frequent flyer.)
ALEXIS HUYCK, Clearlake/Ukiah. Failure to appear.
MARISSA JOHNSON, Marysville/Ukiah. Hit&Run with property damage, felon-addict with firearm, criminal threats.
TRINIDAD MAGDALENO-PULIDO, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
LOUIS MORENO III, Stockton/Ukiah. Failure to appear.
CHARLES RAINES, Fort Bragg. Failure to appear.
ROY SANCHEZ, Ukiah. Parole violation.
ANTONIO THOMAS, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-under influence.
COLIN POWELL was the man who helped whitewash the massacre of civilians at My Lai during the war against Vietnam, pushed hard for the Gulf War in the 1990s, and gave the green light to Ariel Sharon in his murderous assault on civilians in Jenin and land grabs in the occupied West Bank, also sold the war against Iraq at the beginning of this century with a fistful of lies. Iraq never attacked the US. It did not have “weapons of mass destruction.” But the Bush administration was salivating for blood and oil after the attacks on the US on the 11th of September, 2001. And any morsel of fiction that would justify their lust for violence was welcomed. Powell would later blame his role in peddling these lies on an “intelligence failure.” This is the go-to excuse for the American military establishment, as we see with the latest atrocity they committed in Afghanistan, the recent drone bomb incineration of a family in Kabul after the disastrous pull out of American troops. Now that he is dead, he will not face justice at the Hague for these crimes. But really, no member of the American ruling class ever does.
— Ken Orphan, CounterPunch.org
* * *
AND OF COURSE there was the British intelligence report, sent by Tony Blair to Powell who commended it in his UN speech as particularly “fine”. The report turned out to be a series of plagiarisms from old articles from Jane’s, and from a paper on Iraqi politics written by a student called Ibrahim al Marashi, at the Monterey Institute for International Studies.
The Marashi plagiarism represents an intrusive parable on how “intelligence” reports actually get put together, to fulfill a political agenda. From some enterprising work by freelance reporter Kenneth Raposa who worked on the Iraqi Dossier story for the Boston Globe, it emerges that Marashi himself comes from a Shi’a family in Baltimore, Md. He’s never visited Iraq and is keen to see Saddam toppled by US invasion.
Marashi’s essay was published in the Middle East Review of International Affairs in Sept 2002, a scholarly magazine run by the GLORIA Center (acronym for Global Research in International Affairs Center) in Herzliya, Israel. Its director is Barry Rubin, who has also been a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy — an Israel policy think tank. Rubin is part of the coterie–which includes Daniel Pipes, Michael Ledeen, and the arch conspirator Richard Perle–who have been pressing for a US attack on Iraq.
Marashi told Raposa that the documents on which he had based his paper had been given him by Kenaan Makiya, a well-known Iraqi exile, and proponent of invasion, much favored by Powell’s own State Department. Makiya claims to have some 4 million pages of documents seized from northern Iraq after Operation Desert Storm.
So here we have a politically-inspired document, spliced together by a Shi’a student, published by an Israeli-based think-tank hot for war, swiped off the web by Blair’s harried minions and served up to Powell as a masterpiece of British intelligence collection from MI6.
— Alexander Cockburn, CounterPunch.org, Feb. 2003
* * *
The rest of the story of Powell’s lies and cover-ups in the My Lai massacre: consortiumnews.com/2021/10/18/behind-colin-powells-legend-my-lai/
From that article:
“I recall a phrase we used in the field, MAM, for military-age male,” Powell wrote. “If a helo spotted a peasant in black pajamas who looked remotely suspicious, a possible MAM, the pilot would circle and fire in front of him. If he moved, his movement was judged evidence of hostile intent, and the next burst was not in front, but at him. Brutal? Maybe so. But an able battalion commander with whom I had served at Gelnhausen (West Germany), Lt. Col. Walter Pritchard, was killed by enemy sniper fire while observing MAMs from a helicopter. And Pritchard was only one of many. The kill-or-be-killed nature of combat tends to dull fine perceptions of right and wrong.”
While it’s certainly true that combat is brutal, mowing down unarmed civilians is not combat. It is, in fact, a war crime. Neither can the combat death of a fellow soldier be cited as an excuse to murder civilians. Disturbingly, that was precisely the rationalization that the My Lai killers cited in their own defense.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
We’re trying to be patient and brave, but it’s wearing very thin. My spouse and I live in a small town in the Great Smoky Mountains and we’re suddenly being overrun by people from other states who are moving here, just so they can turn our cities and towns into the kinds of places that they fled from in the first place. Gas went up 20 cents last week and 6 cents just yesterday alone. We’re not erudite, upper class, monied people, but neither are we poor enough to qualify for the many handouts that are given to the poor. We are stuck in the middle, dancing as fast as we can, watching our savings deplete, our house fall down around our ears for lack of repairs and speeding towards old age filled with fear over what’s to become of us.
POWER (psychopathic lyrics by Kanye West)
I'm living' in that 21st century
Doing something mean to it
Do it better than anybody you ever seen do it
Screams from the haters, got a nice ring to it
I guess every superhero need his theme music
No one man should have all that power
The clock's ticking', I just count the hours
Stop tripping', I'm tripping' off the power
(21st century schizoid man)
The system broken, the schools closed, the prisons open
We ain't got nothing' to lose, ma' fucka', we rolling
Huh? Ma'fucka', we rolling'
With some light-skinned girls and some Kelly Rowlands
In this white man's world, we the ones chosen
So goodnight, cruel world, I see you in the mornin'
Huh? I see you in the mornin'
This is way too much, I need a moment
No one man should have all that power
The clock's tickin', I just count the hours
Stop trippin' I'm trippin' off the power
'Til then, fuck that, the world's ours
And then they (hey) and then they
And then they (hey) and then they
And then they (hey) and then they
(21st century schizoid man)
Fuck S-N-L and the whole cast
Tell 'em Yeezy said they can kiss my whole ass
More specifically, they can kiss my ass-hole
I'm an asshole? You niggas got jokes
You short-minded niggas thoughts is Napoleon
My furs is Mongolian, my ice brought the goldies in
Now I embody every characteristic of the egotistic
He knows, he so, fuckin' gifted
I just needed time alone, with my own thoughts
Got treasures in my mind but couldn't open up my own vault
My childlike creativity, purity and honesty
Is honestly being crowded by these grown thoughts
Reality is catchin' up with me
Takin' my inner child, I'm fighting for its custody
With these responsibilities that they entrusted me
As I look down at my dia-mond-encrusted piece
Thinkin', no one man should have all that power
The clock's tickin', I just count the hours
Stop trippin', I'm trippin' off the powder
'Til then, fuck that, the world's ours
And then they (hey) and then they
And then they (hey) and then they
And then they (hey) and then they
(21st century schizoid man)
Colin, Powers, Austin, Powers
Lost in translation with a whole fuckin' nation
They say "How was the abomination of Obama's nation?"
Well that's a pretty bad way to start the conversation
At the end of day, goddammit I'm killin' this shit
I know damn well y'all feelin' this shit
I don't need your pussy, bitch I'm on my own dick
I ain't gotta power trip, who you goin' home with?
How 'Ye doin? I'm survivin'
I was drinkin' earlier, now I'm drivin'
Where the bad bitches, huh? Where ya hidin'
I got the power, make yo' life so exciting (so exciting)
Now this would be a beautiful death
Jumping out the window
Letting everything go
Letting everything go
Now this would be a beautiful death
Jumping out the window
Letting everything go
Letting everything go
Now this would be a beautiful death
Jumping out the window
Letting everything go
Letting everything go
You got the power to let power go?
(21st century schizoid man)
‘THE BIDENS’: IS THE FIRST FAMILY CORRUPT, OR MERELY CRAZY?
Politico reporter Ben Schreckinger's new book is an equal opportunity offender that may push a reluctant national media to re-examine ugly questions about President Joe Biden
by Matt Taibbi
If you want insight into how challenging life has become for reporters in the Trump era, take a glance at the author’s note for The Bidens, the controversial new book about the president and his family by Politico reporter Ben Schreckinger.
No journalism is apolitical, but Schreckinger’s approach to investigating the first family is as close as you’ll find in the “moral clarity” era to old-school aspirations to objectivity. This book initially won love from the conservative press because Schreckinger brought the mainstream imprimatur of Politico to confirmation of some of the key emails in the infamous Hunter Biden laptop story. But that enthusiasm may have tailed off when reporters for those outlets read the book, which is also brutal in its treatment of figures like Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas, and Donald Trump; Schreckinger is an equal-opportunity offender.
In the author’s note, however, it’s clear Schreckinger is concerned about how the mere act of publishing damaging information about Joe Biden and his family members will be received. “We live in an age of distrust and of coordinated campaigns to manipulate public opinion,” he writes, adding: “Readers have every right to wonder whether an extended inquiry into the Biden family, emphasizing its finances, is just some instrument of a broader effort to create a political narrative.”
He goes on to reassure readers that that’s not what he’s up to, that he just believes “the best way to understand people in power, and subjects of international controversy, is to attempt a thorough, timely examination.” He then adds, in a note that reads like he’s saying, “You may be more receptive to these disquieting facts in a few years”:
Too often people interpret the news of the day through the lens of their own political sympathies, and a more nuanced understanding of our leaders emerges only much later, when political pressures have eased.
For these reasons, he has hope the reader can accept his “holistic” telling of the Bidens’ story, which turns out to be a far darker and freakier tale than conventional wisdom has yet conceded.
Schreckinger is young, and The Bidens was clearly written in a bit of a hurry, but he’s a skilled storyteller. The initial framing is clever, with a first first chapter titled, “Chekhov’s Laptop,” a reference to Russian playwright’s famous dictum that “if in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired.”
Having primed the reader to look for that metaphorical gun on the wall, he opens with a scene that’s bananas even by the outré standards of first son Hunter Biden’s “tumultuous” life. Hunter in October of 2018 had gotten in an argument with his then-girlfriend, Hallie, who according to the funhouse physics of the first family was of course the widow of his late brother Beau. In the course of that dispute, Hallie had taken his .38 revolver and thrown it out of Hunter’s pickup truck (a pickup truck?) into a trash can outside “Janssen’s, a high-end grocery store near Wilmington the family had long frequented.”
When Hunter found out the gun was gone, he chivalrously sent Hallie back into the trash to get it. This turns out to be the first of many moments in The Bidens where despite a seemingly tireless instinct for indulgent selfishness, and a maximally unattractive profile as the coddled scion of political privilege, one somehow feels bad for Hunter Biden. He’s not just a wreck, but a wreck with spectacularly bad luck. In this case, not only has his dead brother’s widow taken advantage of his trusting nature and thrown away his pistol (the one a person with his recreational leanings probably shouldn’t have anyway, but does, and moreover has left unattended), she picked the one bin that’s both across the street from a high school and in a spot where an old man hunting for recyclables somehow finds it.
Now the thing is missing and poor Hunter, who if nothing else has a keen sense of his own potential for disaster, must be imagining the worst, which in his family is likely a headline: Boy, 13, Uses Gun Registered to Dickhead Senator’s Son to Kill Parents, Neighbor, Dog, Self. The Delaware State Police are called, the FBI for some instantly suspicious reason also shows up, the Secret Service also reportedly appears at the store where Hunter bought the gun (I say reportedly because the Secret Service denies this, the first of many details in The Bidens that ends up receding in a fog of conflicting accounts), and the ATF even makes an appearance.
The gun was eventually found after a few days, when the old man turned it in. By that point Hunter had already skipped town and begun setting in motion a preposterous chain of events that have ramifications in national politics to the present day. Again as would be expected in the hallucinogenic tabloid logic that seems to govern all events in the Biden family, Hunter follows up the gun mess by going up to Newburyport, Massachusetts to clean himself up in the care of Keith Ablow, a Fox News personality who is “recognizable by his clean-shaven head” and had once accused Joe Biden of being drunk during a vice presidential debate with Paul Ryan.
This turns out to be a home rehab job with all the respectability of the Dr. Sonderborg’s Bay City dopehouse in Farewell My Lovely. Hunter goes skiing at Wachusett Mountain, practices yoga, gets IV vitamin infusions, and, no joke at all, goes to see a play called Crippled Inside about a middle-aged man who reflects on teenage years when his father, a powerful Justice Department official, “bailed him out of scrapes while playing politics in Washington.” Moved, Hunter ends up deciding to try to pull his life back together, resolving to spend more time at his daughter’s lacrosse games, get Lasik surgery, and get his finances under control (Schreckinger doesn’t specify the order of these resolutions). However, there’s a problem:
He had something on the order of twenty bank accounts, but his life was in such disarray that he did not have the log-in credentials to access many of them…
Hunter Biden’s life is one long accident, and he’s constantly leaving the scene of it. In one episode recounted later on, he follows up a crack rampage in L.A. by falling asleep at the wheel while driving east on I-10, leading him to jump a median strip at 80 m.p.h. and come to a halt facing oncoming traffic from the other direction. A tow truck leads him to a rental car, which he drives straight to Prescott, Arizona, leaving behind in the other vehicle a “crack pipe, a Delaware attorney general’s badge, and a Secret Service calling card.”
Similarly, Hunter ended up leaving Ablow’s care in such a rush that he left a laptop behind. It wasn’t that laptop, but this other laptop also ends up having a history, when the DEA raids Ablow a year later (people in Hunter Biden’s orbit end up arrested by federal agents with such uncanny predictability that his arrival in anyone’s life must be treated as divine warning). The feds seize that computer, only to turn it back over to Hunter “after a few weeks of haggling.” Schreckinger is careful to note the irony that a Donald Trump-controlled federal agency at one point both collected and surrendered one of Hunter’s laptops, unbeknownst to Steve Bannon, Rudy Giuliani and the other Trump agents who at the time were engaged in a ruthless private treasure-hunt for a different Hunter computer.
That latter story came about because, after leaving Newburyport, Hunter went on an “extended crack binge in Connecticut, holed up in seedy motels along I-95, in the company of prostitutes and drug dealers.” After this relapse, Hunter “briefly materialized” in Delaware, where in another Biden fog job he reportedly leaves three laptops with a man named John Paul Mac Isaac, and abandons those, too. It’s a few weeks after that, in May, 2019, that Joe Biden holds a kickoff rally for his presidential campaign in Philadelphia. Schreckinger writes: “Among the gathered Bidens, where Hunter should have been, sat a single, empty chair.”
That empty chair is the real Chekhovian gun. Hunter Biden’s absence, conspicuous enough that it’s mentioned in an ominous New Yorker article wonders in deadpan if the armed, cracksmoking Spaulding Smails of the Biden family might “jeopardize” his father’s run to the White House, ends up hanging over the campaign like a loaded weapon. According to literary convention, the gun must go off by the final chapter of The Bidens, and it does. As Schreckinger goes on to detail, the Hunter story isn’t an irrelevant subplot, either, but central to an important and deeply disturbing question America should be asking about who Joe Biden is.
Schreckinger does an excellent job using the old show-don’t-tell method of revealing through the Biden tale the bipartisan nature of corruption and favoritism in America. For instance, it turns out even Joe Biden’s most fanatical enemy after Trump, Giuliani, had once done a favor for Joe, giving Biden’s niece Missy a job as a legislative affairs staffer in Giuliani’s administration. This happened at the same time Biden was ripping Giuliani’s own presidential campaign rhetoric as limited to “a noun, a verb, and 9/11.”
More to the point, Giuliani ended up in his post-mayoral life supporting himself by doing what many American ex-politicians stoop to: whoring himself out to wealthy foreigners with legal problems or lobbying needs. Giuliani in this respect has proved virtually without boundaries when it comes to his willingness to serve the most disreputable clients around the world, but as Schreckinger notes, he was not alone in this. In fact, he and Hunter Biden ended up feeding from the same trough:
Hunter, meanwhile, had grown into something of a competitor with Giuliani in the lucrative market of well-connected Americans selling their legal services and political help to deep-pocketed foreigners. In one instance, the men were more like indirect collaborators.
In 2015, a fabulously wealthy Romanian businessman had hired Hunter to help fend off corruption charges in his home country. Hunter then pulled Louis Freeh, a former FBI director, into the effort to defend the businessman, who was eventually convicted. Freeh later brought on Giuliani to work for the same oligarch as they pressured Romanian authorities to ease up on the man.
The Bidens grew out of plan by Schreckinger to do a single profile of Hunter Biden for Politico, but it evolved into a book-length account of an epic chase tale, in which Donald Trump’s dirty lawyers and dirty lobbyists set off in pursuit of a remarkably similar set of characters in Joe Biden’s orbit.
The Biden half of this story isn’t merely about one wayward son with a drug problem. Schreckinger correctly identifies family and Catholicism as primary bonding agents in this political dynasty, and while the Biden clan is incredibly tightly knit, so much so that voters can sense it and relate to Biden because of it, the family also has a schismatic, Jeykyll/Hyde character. On the side symbolized by Joe and prodigal son Beau, they appear modest, down-to-earth, perhaps even ethical. On the other side, symbolized by son Hunter, the entrepreneurial brothers Jim and Frank, and others, they appear almost fanatical in their efforts to take financial advantage of the Biden name, while also cursed by horrific luck and a propensity for decisions that are almost mathematically perfect in their disastrousness, all of which became more and more problematic as Joe Biden heads up the ranks of power.
Modern Washington is Rome, and once you have a figure with a hold on high office — the White House is the ultimate, but a House or Senate committee will do very nicely too thankyou — it’s common for satellites to set up “consultancies” where petitioners to the King may empty their purses. As Schreckinger notes, the modern template was “Black, Stone, Manafort and Kelly — as in Roger Stone and Paul Manafort,” which had “mainstreamed the business of peddling influence in Washington on behalf of foreign clients.” Manafort and Stone’s firm made headlines in the late eighties, when a Philippine political party paid them a $950,000 retainer the day after George H.W. Bush beat Mike Dukakis, and when Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA rebels in Angola signed them as Washington representatives, joining a list of clients from places like Peru, Kenya, and Somalia. Domestically, Manafort earned a spot in the New York Times “Quotations of the Day” in 1989, when he testified to the House, after he and some partners in a New Jersey real estate deal received $31 million in federal housing money, that “I would stipulate that for the purposes of today, you could characterize this as influence peddling.”
Everyone in Washington knows this game, and the basic premise is the same on both sides of the aisle. Companies with ties to big-time politicians exist to be paid, and what “services” they offer in return is more of a TBD-type thing. Schreckinger details how Jim Biden, Joe’s brother, labored repeatedly to set up just such an operation, hoping to be “a sort of Democratic answer” to Black, Stone, Manafort and Kelly. At one point he teamed up with former Mississippi State auditor Steve Patterson, who’d worked for Joe’s first presidential campaign, along with famed tobacco lawyer Dickie Scruggs and another attorney, Timothy Balducci. Although Jim wasn’t a lawyer, his wife Sara was, and, as The Bidens notes, she was to be a partner in the new enterprise.
As it happened, the firm never got off the ground because Patterson, Balducci, and Scruggs ended up convicted in a scheme to bribe a judge in a dispute over $26.5 million in legal fees over Hurricane Katrina litigation. They, too, were hit by the Biden Curse, an inerrant phenomenon that uses a gravity-like force to pull would-be Biden partners into federal custody.
The thing about this kind of business, however, is that it’s highly portable, and following the trail of the various efforts to open a cash register in front of Joe Biden’s political career is where Schreckinger does his best work. The Bidens earned early press mainly for a few passages about the Hunter Biden laptop story, but for my money its biggest score comes at the outset of a chapter called “The Bidens Go Global,” describing a scene involving another attempted family enterprise, a hedge fund called “Paradigm Global Advisors.”
Schreckinger quotes a former chief compliance officer for the firm, which had been sold to the Bidens by James Park, who naturally is the son of a former bigwig in the Unification Church of billionaire Sun Myung Moon. The officer recounts a day in 2006 when Jim and Hunter Biden showed up and began beating their chests about the future:
Jim had a plan. “Don’t worry about investors,” he told the executive that day. “We’ve got people all around the world who want to invest in Joe Biden.” In case the chief compliance officer did not get the picture, Jim painted it more vividly for him: “We’ve got investors lined up in a line of 747s filled with cash ready to invest in this company.”
This compliance officer also detailed declining offers of cocaine parties with Hunter and Park (“I figured that wasn’t right for a compliance officer to be doing”) and recounted an incident in which a “succession of firefighters” entered the office announcing, in a scene that sounds straight out of The Sopranos, “We’re friends of Joe, and we want to invest in the fund.” Schreckinger got a similar comment on the record from Chuck Provini, a more experienced investment professional the family reportedly wanted to bring in to serve as the non-Biden face of the firm.
“Joe Biden needs to distance himself from this,” Provini says Jim and Hunter told him, adding that, “I was told because of his relationships with the unions that they felt as though it would be favorably looked upon to invest in the fund.”
There’s also a scene in there when the compliance officer describes how, after balking when Hunter tries to take $21,000 out of the company’s coffers to make a mortgage payment, Hunter pleads, “But I’m going to lose my home.” Here again the Biden fog rolls in, however, as a lawyer representing Jim and Hunter Biden denies that this scene and some of the compliance officer’s other stories ever happened. Even the on-the-record source Provini ended up first suing, then settling with the Bidens over an allegation that he was stiffed out of salary, so that has to be taken into account. But a pattern over time emerges, and it’s hard to ignore, especially when it comes to the later, more successful family business, beginning with Rosemont Seneca Partners.
Rosemont Seneca was the brainchild of Hunter, John Kerry’s stepson Chris Heinz, and James Bulger, son of Billy Bulger, better known to Massholes like Schreckinger and myself as the Bulger Brother who wasn’t the Winter Hill Gang leader that inspired Jack Nicholson’s character in The Departed. (The more faithful screen depiction of the Bulger family saga is the set-in-Provincetown drama Brotherhood starring Jason Isaacs and Jason Clarke, but I digress). By the time you reach the part of the story where Hunter is trying to get into business with a Bulger, the humor factor has already gone past 11, as Biden’s son’s list of professional partners reads like an exhibit list for Madame Tussaud’s old “Chamber of Horrors.”
Hunter not only goes into business with a famed mobster’s namesake (Whitey’s given name was also James) and buys into a hedge fund whose chief investors are Moonies, he registers a new fund with the SEC with Allen Stanford, better known as the second most famous Ponzi schemer in modern American history. He also seeks out a partnership with financier John Burnham, because Hunter and pal Devon Archer had a dream — no joke — of resurrecting Burnham and Company, the remnant of the Drexel Burnham Lambert investment bank made infamous by junk bond king Mike Milken.
Archer, incidentally, will also end up nabbed by the Biden Curse, arrested after he and a financier named Jason Galanis cooked up a Jack Abramoff-esque scheme to finance the Drexel dream using bonds issued by the Oglala Sioux Native American tribe. “This is pure genius a la Mikey Milken! The native American bonds!” one participant in the affair wrote to Galanis, copying Archer on the email.
The pair ended up accused of defrauding the tribe out of $60 million. Archer was convicted, then had his conviction overturned by a judge named Ronnie Abrams, whom Schreckinger describes as “an Obama nominee and a trustee at Dalton, one of the nation’s most prestigious private schools.” Archer getting off prompted peeved prosecutors to take a second look at the whole case. They began then to be interested in some of Hunter Biden’s transactions, particularly “unrelated foreign payments” that looked like money laundering, only to learn that numerous authorities, from the IRS criminal division to the FBI, were already digging into Hunter for everything from the aforementioned “potential money laundering” to “FARA violations, tax violations, and counterintelligence concerns,” the latter among other things involving payments made to “eastern European women.”
Jim and Hunter’s dreams of a windfall from Chinese oil connections began to wilt when another would-be partner, Ye’s right-hand man Patrick Ho, was Biden-cursed, arrested under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, allegedly for passing bribes to officials in Chad and Uganda in exchange for oil rights. Ye’s first call after arrest was to Jim, his lawyer, and Hunter’s law firm, Owasco, was wired $1 million for Ho’s representation. Meanwhile, Ye vanished, reportedly detained by Chinese authorities, among other things after the Financial Times reported that his company, CEFC, had ties to Chinese military intelligence. As Schreckinger put it, “Hunter’s big Chinese score had gone up in smoke.”
Hunter around this time was also fathering a child with a former Arkansas State basketball player named Alexis Lunden Roberts, who naturally was paying her way through grad school at George Washington University working as a stripper. By that time, he had also reached the stage of crack addiction where, to head off the possibility of supply ever running out, it becomes necessary to move in with one’s dealer, in this case a homeless woman named “Bicycles.”
Hunter at one point was trying to make payments on a $1.6 million home and fighting one of the most ravenous addictions in the history of crack while his father was Vice President, which admittedly can’t be easy. (Again, Schreckinger manages to tell Hunter Biden’s story in way that’s remorseless while also eliciting a curious sympathy). Where it gets weird is the question of how all of this intersects with Joe Biden. In a key section of the book, Schreckinger details the flirtation between the Bidens and a Chinese businessman named Ye Jianming and his CEFC oil conglomerate. Joe Biden is in Los Angeles to give a speech about his cancer initiative to the Milken conference, the creation of sort-of-rehabilitated Mike Milken:
The night before his appearance, Joe met with Hunter, Jim, and Tony Bobulinski, another partner in [a] planned LNG venture, according to Bobulinksi, who said that in the course of their conversation, Joe showed familiarity with his relatives’ business plans…
On May 13, another partner in the venture emailed Hunter, Bobulinski, and a fourth partner, outlining their plans for compensation. The partner wrote of “a provisional agreement that the equity will be distributed as follows.” The breakdown indicated that “H” and the three other partners would get 20 percent each, along with 10 for “Jim” and, finally, “10 held by H for the big guy?”
Schreckinger says “a person with independent access” to this email confirmed its authenticity to him, making it one of several ways he verified material in Hunter’s infamous laptop. In another portion of the book, Schreckinger discusses Hunter’s offices in Washington’s House of Sweden, which is owned by the Swedish government. “Hunter instructed the building manager to have keys to the office made up for both of his parents, for Jim, and for Gongwen Dong, an associate of Ye’s,” Schreckinger writes.
He explains that he verified the House of Sweden correspondence using the Swedish version of the Freedom of Information law, good thinking that leads to another good get. The correspondence yielded head-slapping exchanges showing the House of Sweden complaining about Roberts and a woman fitting the description of Bicycles bypassing security by using a back entrance, reminding Hunter that the building contains both the Swedish and Icelandic embassies.
Hunter somewhat hilariously responds both by playing the race card — “if [a Sweden House employee] has an issue with the race or dress of my visitors I think we should all sit down and discuss with an attorney present” — and by name-dropping, noting that Roberts “worked out with Maisy and Sasha Obama when they played in rec league together.” Of course, when Roberts sued Hunter Biden for paternity, he at first denied ever having sex with her, but lost the case after paternity was established. Moreover, the relevant House of Sweden correspondence came in September of 2017, and the child was born the following August. This demonstrates, as Schreckinger notes, that Hunter Biden’s story suggesting a single, forgotten meeting — “I had no recollection of our encounter” — can’t be correct, as the relationship had to have gone on for a few months at least.
None of this is particularly relevant to anything, except that Schreckinger’s success in landing the Swedish emails end up as important confirmation of emails on the infamous laptop. As noted in an interview on Useful Idiots, Schreckinger also never tried to verify a Hunter Biden email and got a negative response, though of course this is not proof that all of the laptop material is genuine.
When the laptop story first broke in the New York Post before the election last year, it was almost universally dismissed by credentialed mainstream reporters as Russian disinformation, including by Politico in a story by Natasha Bertrand. This continues to be underrated as was one of the more infamous episodes in the recent history of both the news media and the tech industry (both Facebook and Twitter initially blocked access to the story). The Biden White House continues, with impressive brazenness, to stick to last year’s narrative. White House spokesperson Jen Psaki recently offered a classically Ron Ziegleresque non-denial denial — “I think it’s broadly known and widely known that there was a broad range of Russian disinformation back in 2020” — in response to a question prompted by Schreckinger’s book about the laptop story’s accuracy.
However, other mainstream outlets have now mostly dropped the pretense that the emails are fake, and that’s in large part down to this one writer’s efforts to move the story forward, an accomplishment that may at some point prove important in helping restore some credibility for the press.
Schreckinger doesn’t try to punch above his evidence, and concedes in multiple places that he hasn’t produced smoking-gun evidence tying “the big guy” to Hunter’s myriad cash flows. However, he’s also sensitive enough to the weird rhythms of the Biden family to grasp that the overall circumstantial picture is damning.
In particular, Biden’s insistence that “I have never discussed, with my son or my brother or with anyone else, anything having to do with their businesses,” is simply not believable after reading this book, not just because there is witness and documentary evidence directly contradicting him, but because the family does appear to be just as close as it claims. The fact that Biden participated, and continues to participate, in a shameless scheme to deflect attention and squelch inquiry by characterizing these true stories as Russian disinformation adds to the pile of evidence against him.
At minimum, Jim and Hunter Biden spent years setting up companies to be receptacles of “747s filled with cash” from people around the world they believed would be anxious to invest in the Biden name. The possibilities from there for Joe Biden range from merely dishonest acceptance of his family’s influence-peddling to things far worse. In a normal media environment, there would be dozens of journalists lining up to build on Schreckinger’s good start, to try to flesh out the part of this story that’s still lost in fog. However, there’s a cost of writing this sort of book now that comes in the form of not being invited to the usual Manhattan green-room publicity tour, and being frozen out of other opportunities. Will other reporters be willing to pay it?
I asked Schreckinger about these and other questions on Useful Idiots with Katie Halper. A few excerpts:
Matt Taibbi: How long did the book take to write, and what were you trying to accomplish?
Ben Schreckinger: As I put in the Author’s Note, this is not the end of the Biden story. This is not the Robert Caro treatment of Lyndon Baines Johnson. A lot of these episodes are ambiguous, there’s conflicting evidence. I’m expecting our understanding of a lot of these episodes, especially the more recent ones having to do with Hunter Biden to continue to evolve. That’s definitely a tricky and a treacherous thing to be doing, trying to write a book-length treatment of something as events are still unfolding. I wanted it to come out in a timely way, and I think that it has.
MT: The “747s full of cash” line is amazing. What was going through your head during that interview?
Ben Schreckinger: In the process of reporting out the Paradigm episode for the first time, for that first Politico story, one of the first people I was able to reach was an executive, the former chief compliance officer of the firm who’s cited at length. He said, “You know, yeah, Jimmy Biden showed up on the first day and said, ‘Don’t worry about investments. We got people around the world who want to put money behind Joe Biden.’” Joe Biden was then the ranking member on Senate Foreign Relations and the idea was, well, if you’re a deep-pocketed foreign interest, you can’t give money legally to a Joe Biden Senate or presidential campaign, but you could invest in this firm.
By all appearances, that didn’t end up working out. They don’t seem to actually succeed in landing these sorts of investments, but that was striking. To not have a deep understanding of the family’s business dealings and for one of the first people you reach to be an executive who says, “Oh yeah, this is what happened. This is what Jimmy Biden said on the first day.” It was like, wow.
MT: And this was one of the first people you’d called, correct?
Ben Schreckinger: At the outset of the reporting, it’s like, “What am I to make of this?” This is not some random crank who’s coming to me. It’s not someone who’s being shopped to me by some political operative. This is, let me look up who was at this firm 10 years ago, start calling the top executives, reaching out to them, and this was one of the first people I reached. You’d be much more wary of that if someone were approaching you with that information. When you approach someone else and that’s what they say, it puts you back on your back heels a little bit… Then having reported out 10 or so other episodes since that, it makes more sense.
MT: You have a chapter called the “Delaware Way.” What is the “Delaware Way”?
Ben Schreckinger: It’s sort of this double edged sword where Joe Biden and his aides are saying, “Yeah, the Delaware Way is what Joe Biden is offering to this country. It’s bipartisan, it’s less acrimonious. We’re all going to sit around a table and make a deal, and that’s what’s best for the country.”
But in Delaware for a lot of people, the Delaware Way has a very negative connotation, and essentially means cronyism. There’s a prosecutor, who happens to be the prosecutor who’s investigating Hunter Biden right now, who in a different case where he’s putting away a Biden campaign bumbler for making illegal straw man donations, he defines the Delaware Way as a form of soft corruption. It’s like a Rorschach, Rashomon thing: is the Delaware Way good or bad? I think it’s fascinating.
DEMOCRATS AND MEDIA DO NOT WANT TO WEAKEN FACEBOOK, Just Commandeer Its Power To Censor
"Whistleblower" Frances Haugen is a vital media and political asset because she advances their quest for greater control over online political discourse.
by Glenn Greenwald
Much is revealed by who is bestowed hero status by the corporate media. This week's anointed avatar of stunning courage is Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager being widely hailed as a "whistleblower” for providing internal corporate documents to the Wall Street Journal relating to the various harms which Facebook and its other platforms (Instagram and WhatsApp) are allegedly causing.
The social media giant hurts America and the world, this narrative maintains, by permitting misinformation to spread (presumably more so than cable outlets and mainstream newspapers do virtually every week); fostering body image neurosis in young girls through Instagram (presumably more so than fashion magazines, Hollywood and the music industry do with their glorification of young and perfectly-sculpted bodies); promoting polarizing political content in order to keep the citizenry enraged, balkanized and resentful and therefore more eager to stay engaged (presumably in contrast to corporate media outlets, which would never do such a thing); and, worst of all, by failing to sufficiently censor political content that contradicts liberal orthodoxies and diverges from decreed liberal Truth. On Tuesday, Haugen's star turn took her to Washington, where she spent the day testifying before the Senate about Facebook's dangerous refusal to censor even more content and ban even more users than they already do.
There is no doubt, at least to me, that Facebook and Google are both grave menaces. Through consolidation, mergers and purchases of any potential competitors, their power far exceeds what is compatible with a healthy democracy. A bipartisan consensus has emerged on the House Antitrust Committee that these two corporate giants — along with Amazon and Apple — are all classic monopolies in violation of long-standing but rarely enforced antitrust laws. Their control over multiple huge platforms that they purchased enables them to punish and even destroy competitors, as we saw when Apple, Google and Amazon united to remove Parler from the internet forty-eight hours after leading Democrats demanded that action, right as Parler became the most-downloaded app in the country, or as Google suppresses Rumble videos in its dominant search feature as punishment for competing with Google's YouTube platform. Facebook and Twitter both suppressed reporting on the authentic documents about Joe Biden's business activities reported by The New York Post just weeks before the 2020 election. These social media giants also united to effectively remove the sitting elected President of the United States from the internet, prompting grave warnings from leaders across the democratic world about how anti-democratic their consolidated censorship power has become.
But none of the swooning over this new Facebook heroine nor any of the other media assaults on Facebook have anything remotely to do with a concern over those genuine dangers. Congress has taken no steps to curb the influence of these Silicon Valley giants because Facebook and Google drown the establishment wings of both parties with enormous amounts of cash and pay well-connected lobbyists who are friends and former colleagues of key lawmakers to use their D.C. influence to block reform. With the exception of a few stalwarts, neither party's ruling wing really has any objection to this monopolistic power as long as it is exercised to advance their own interests....