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Welcome to Vassaldom

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/01/2021 - 12:40am in

These remarkable pictures are of Europe’s biggest fish market, Peterhead. Just compare with its more usual activity shown on their website here. This lack of life is all caused of course by the mountain of red tape Brexiters have imposed on the country, rendering swift fresh food distribution to European markets virtually impossible. The emptiness... Read more

Viral #TrumpsNewArmy Video Is Liberals At Their Craziest And Scariest

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 11:36pm in

A new viral video calling on liberals to form “an army of citizen detectives” to gather information on Trump supporters and report their activities to the authorities has racked up thousands of shares and millions of views in just a few hours.

The hashtag #TrumpsNewArmy is trending on Twitter as of this writing due to the release of a horrifying video with that title from successful author and virulent Russiagater Don Winslow. As of this writing it has some 20 thousand shares and 2.6 million views, and the comments and quote-retweets are predominantly supportive.

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“On or before January 20th, Donald Trump will no longer be the Commander-in-Chief: he will lose control of the Army, Navy, Airforce, Marines, Special Forces and America’s nuclear arsenal,” Winslow’s voice begins ominously. “On January 20th Donald Trump will become Commander-in-Chief of a different army: this army.”

Viewers are then shown footage from Trump rallies while being told that they are looking at “radical extreme conservatives, also known as domestic terrorists”.

“They are hidden among us, disguised behind regular jobs,” Winslow warns. “They are your children’s teachers. They work at supermarkets, malls, doctor’s offices, and many are police officers and soldiers.”

Winslow talks about white supremacists and the Capitol riot, warning that Trump will continue escalating violence and fomenting a civil war in America.

“We have to fight back,” Winslow declares. “In this new war, the battlefield has changes. Computers can be more valuable than guns. And this is what we need now more than ever: an army of citizen detectives. I’m proposing we form a citizen army. Our weapons will be computers and cellphones. We, who are monitoring extremists on the internet and reporting our findings to authorities. Remember, before the Navy Seals killed Osama Bin Laden, he had to be found. He was found by a CIA analyst working on a computer thousands of miles away. It’s up to you.”

The viral video is being loudly amplified by popular #Resistance accounts like Majid M Padellan (better known as Brooklyn Dad Defiant) with frighteningly paranoid and HUAC-like rhetoric.

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“#TrumpsNewArmy is VILE,” one of Padellan’s Twitter shares of the video reads. “And we KNOW who they are. They are our teachers. They are our neighbors. They are our police officers. They are EVERYWHERE. EXPOSE THEIR TREASON.”

“Donald trump is on his way out,” reads another. “Good riddance. But his ‘army’ is still here, hiding amongst us. They are traitors. They are evil. And they MUST be rooted OUT.”

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,” reads yet another. “But SOME people… they pledged their allegiance ONLY to trump. These are dangerous traitors.”

“After 9/11, we were told: If you see something, say something,” reads still another. “We have TERRORISTS in our midst. Some of us KNOW these people. It is our patriotic DUTY to expose them.”

So if you were hoping that maybe liberals would chill out and get a little less crazy with Trump out of the White House, I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

This is as insane and scary as I have ever seen these people get, and I was in the thick of peak Russiagate hysteria. An aggressively manufactured push to get an army of citizens spying on each other calls to mind the Stasi informants of East Germany, the patriotism-fueled digital “digging” of the QAnon psyop, and the NatSec LARPing of Louise Mensch Twitter, all rolled into one great big ball of crazy.

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This comes out as we are being bombarded with mass media punditry from literal CIA veterans like Sue Gordon and Elissa Slotkin forcefully hammering home the message that domestic terror is the new frontier for combating violent extremism, meaning of course that new Patriot Act-like solutions will be needed. Winslow himself spent six years traveling and doing research for a novel about a former CIA operative, and if some government agency didn’t recruit him during that period they clearly should have.

This will get frightening if it keeps up. Just as a relatively low-profile lefty blogger I routinely get liberals online falsely claiming I’m a Russian agent and saying they’ll report me to the FBI, and that’s without an aggressive campaign urging them to join a powerful digital army. The fact that Winslow stays very vague about what he means by “Trump’s new army” and constantly conflates rank-and-file Trump supporters with white supremacist terrorists means people are effectively being pointed at all Trump supporters, especially when normal Trump rallies are what he points to in the video. If this takes off it can very quickly lead to a volunteer army of power-worshipping snitches against literally anyone who is critical of US foreign policy or the Democratic Party, whether they actually support Trump or not.

In fact just following the trending hashtag I’m noticing Twitter users saying this means targeting all Trump supporters, so clearly that is the message that’s being absorbed.

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“Trumpers are pushing back so hard against this video because so many of them live in the dark, cloaked behind normal jobs and seemingly normal lives,” Winslow tweeted in promotion of his project.

Well maybe that’s because they are half the voting public, Don?

Winslow mixes in these generic comments about “Trumpers” with comments about “white supremacists”, about whom he tweets “1. We expose them. 2. We identify them. 3. We notify law enforcement. 4. We notify their employers.”

Their employers.

This is just liberals being pushed toward targeting anyone who isn’t ideologically aligned with them for destruction. I really, really hope it doesn’t take off, because it is profoundly ugly. Please don’t let the manipulators trick you into ripping each other to pieces, America. They’re only pointing you at each other so you don’t look at them.

_______________________

Thanks for reading! The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, throwing some money into my tip jar on Patreon or Paypal, purchasing some of my sweet merchandise, buying my new book Poems For Rebels (you can also download a PDF for five bucks) or my old book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge.

Bitcoin donations:1Ac7PCQXoQoLA9Sh8fhAgiU3PHA2EX5Zm2

Will North Korea Explode After Biden Becomes President?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 8:26pm in

North Korea is in even more of an economic mess than before. Will that lead to more brinksmanship?

Brexit is failing and the two leading parties are determined to block consideration of any alternatives. So where does that leave us?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 7:12pm in

I tweeted this last night:

I rather suspect that most politicians will not agree to such an idea, as yet.

But the reality is that Brexit, even with a trade deal, is proving to be at least as difficult as many forecast, me included. Far from helping Britain prosper its consequence is that we are already very obviously going to be a poorer and very divided kingdom, with Northern Ireland (at least) feeling more than ever a part of another country.

I am entirely realistic about the fact that there needs to be a learning curve whilst adaptation takes place, but the problems now arising appears systemic. Put simply, there are very real obstacles to trade now that will increase costs, deny choice, and make it very hard for previously viable businesses to operate. This should not be a surprise: that was always going to be the logical consequence of leaving.

Despite this there is now no party in England, apart from the Greens, saying that a return to the EU should be considered, and yet a substantial majority in the country would now seem to think Brexit was a mistake.

In that case there is a real issue to be addressed here. Not only do we know that Labour and the Tories operate a conspiracy to block the realistic prospect of any other party getting a chance in the UK electoral system, but they are also acting to deny choice in the rump of an electoral system that we have got.

Scotland has seemingly overcome this, by uniting around a single issue. That does not mean Scotland does not face issues if its own. It clearly does, but many of them are the result of a conspiracy by Labour and the Tories to block the choice Scots want to be able to take. So, the issue there comes back to much the same thing that the rest of us face.

The reality is that not only do we have a rotten electoral system in first past the post, but we also have an electoral conspiracy between the two major parties that we do have, whatever their leaderships might be, to block real choice on many issues, come what may.

So the question is, what do we do about this? How do we break this hegemony that is so very obviously bad for the UK as a whole?

For once I admit that I do not have an answer. I wish I had.

What are the problems with QE?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 6:30pm in

Twelve years ago quantitative easing was considered radical. It was called 'unconventional' monetary policy. Actually, it was government just using the power it has to create money at will, which had been pretty much denied until that time.

Now QE has become conventional - there will be more than £400 billion of it done this financial year in the UK alone. But there are problems with it. As a result I am creating a mini-series on the issues that QE is giving rise to, how we can address them, and how this relates to modern monetary theory, which some would like to see replace QE. This is the first in that series, and focuses on the strengths, and weaknesses, of what is now conventional QE.

Psycho Pompeo Exits With Nary A Scratch Of Media Criticism On Him

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 2:48pm in

Tags 

Politics, War

My eclectic news feed looks odd as the hours count down to the end of the Trump administration. Westerners are largely celebrating the exit of Donald Trump himself, whereas with those I follow from areas targeted by US imperialism, the man they’re happiest to see the back of is Mike Pompeo.

It looks very bizarre, as this part of our weird collective adventure comes to an end, how Pompeo’s tenure first as CIA Director and then Secretary of State were almost entirely unmarred by criticism from the political/media class. This is after all a man whose word and deed have been easily more depraved than Trump’s during this profoundly corrupt administration, yet both rank-and-file Democrats and rank-and-file Republicans have been kept only dimly aware of his existence amidst the nonstop scandalous shrieking about the president and his other goons.

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This is the man who has spearheaded all of this administration’s most depraved initiatives, like its latest Yemen sanctions which the UN World Food Programme executive director says is “literally is going to be a death sentence to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of innocent people”, its Venezuela regime change ops which have starved untold tens of thousands of civilians to death, its murderous brinkmanship with Iran, and its world-threatening cold war escalations against Russia and China. The man who openly boasted about lying, cheating and stealing in the CIA. The man who privately said the US would intervene to prevent Jeremy Corbyn from becoming Prime Minister in the UK. The man who admitted the US is slamming Iranians with starvation sanctions to force them to rise up against their government. The man who designated WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service” as Julian Assange’s imprisonment was being orchestrated.

This person is disgusting. You could hardly find a worse specimen of human life than Mike Pompeo. Yet amid all the mainstream news media’s relentless histrionics about the Trump administration, criticism of Trump’s own Secretary of State has remained a rare sight there, and shrill vitriol like that to which we’ve become accustomed with the rest of Trump’s inner circle has never existed. After all this time and after all his depraved actions, he is walking away with nary a scratch of media criticism on him.

This is because Mike Pompeo’s depravity is the “normal” kind. The kind we’re all meant to be used to. The psychotic, mass murdering American exceptionalist imperialism that the billionaire news media exists to protect and facilitate.

You don’t bite the hand that feeds you, and you don’t attack the man who serves the same empire as you. Gotta maintain that access journalism. This could be your next president, after all.

https://medium.com/media/fd4b7909d47b81cfbec14f4aadd1a411/href

Pompeo’s exit provides a very short respite between the time he leaves for whatever lucrative neocon think tank gigs he winds up with and the time he re-emerges from the sea like Cthulhu to once again try to devour the world. He will be replaced as secretary of state in that interim by Tony Blinken, who is another psychopath because that is a job requirement.

The US Department of Defense used to be called the Department of War, which would be a much more honest label today for a military which virtually never operates in any way that could be described as defensive. An even more suitable name would be the Department of Eternal War.

The State Department was meant to be the counterpart to the War Department, focusing on diplomacy and peace. What ended up happening as the US government morphed into a globe-spanning empire dependent on endless violence and aggression is that the State Department wound up focusing more and more on manufacturing interventionist narratives on the world stage to gin up international support for starvation sanctions, proxy wars and war coalitions.

So in practice the US ended up with two war departments: the DoD and the State Department. Which is why you’ve seen the nation’s Secretaries of State becoming more and more jingoistic and psychopathic, to the point where some sort of antisocial personality disorder is really a job requirement for the position. Hence Psycho Mike.

I wish humanity a pleasant sigh of relief on Pompeo’s exit. Please enjoy it as much as possible until the Biden administration does whatever horrifying things it’s going to do, and until the eldritch monster re-emerges from the sea.

___________________________

Thanks for reading! The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, throwing some money into my tip jar on Patreon or Paypal, purchasing some of my sweet merchandise, buying my new book Poems For Rebels (you can also download a PDF for five bucks) or my old book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge.

Bitcoin donations:1Ac7PCQXoQoLA9Sh8fhAgiU3PHA2EX5Zm2

With No Allegation to Investigate, UMass Creepily Probes Alex Morse’s Romantic Life Instead

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 10:06am in

Tags 

Politics

A recently released report by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst has added new evidence of the state Democratic Party’s involvement in the public attack on Alex Morse just ahead of his primary against Rep. Richard Neal. It also found that Morse, formerly an adjunct professor at the school, did not violate university policies, yet the report still delved deeply into Morse’s private dating life with other adults.

In early August, just a few weeks prior to the election against Neal, chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, a number of college students made vague accusations of impropriety against Morse, the youngest and first openly gay mayor of Holyoke.

The involvement of state party officials, who coordinated with the Massachusetts College Democrats to accuse Morse of sexual impropriety, was first revealed by The Intercept and later confirmed by an internal review by the Massachusetts Democratic Party.  The new report, however, includes emails and text messages indicating that party attorney Jim Roosevelt took a more active role in the dissemination of the smear than previously known. It also reveals that party leaders were more involved in walking students through media and legal strategies than they had previously admitted. In an interview with The Intercept, Roosevelt denied the allegations; Mass Dems Executive Director Veronica Martinez implied in an email that the new report exonerated party leadership.

The UMass report, issued on January 13 by the law firm Zalkind Duncan & Bernstein LLP,  found not only no evidence of wrongdoing by Morse, but also that he was not accused of anything that would have violated the school policy. Still, the report left open a vague possibility that the mayor had violated “the University’s general expectations for the conduct of its employees.”

Morse, who has acknowledged having consensual relationships with students in the area, has never been accused of inappropriate relationships with students he taught. The university only bars relationships between faculty and students whom they supervise or teach — not all students generally. In a statement, UMass said that the school is reviewing the investigation’s findings to see if revisions to its consensual relationships policy are warranted. Morse, over the course of several years through fall 2019, taught a once-a-week class on government. There are nearly 30,000 students enrolled at UMass Amherst.

The university said publicly that Morse declined to participate in the investigation, but did not mention that the reason was because the university told him it was not investigating any particular allegation. Rather, the school launched a general probe into his dating life. Given that there were no specific allegations to investigate, Morse told The Intercept that he is considering legal action against the university for its decision to conduct an investigation into his behavior.

“The investigation was launched to conclude whether or not I violated policy or whether or not there was necessary evidence to support a Title IX investigation,” Morse said. “That was the scope of the investigation and the conclusions were reached that neither were met. So anything else is erroneous and irrelevant and an intrusion on my personal life.”

Morse added that the report relies on the word of “UMass Democrats that have been documented to have a clear agenda” against him.

Investigators made a detailed exploration into the psychology of the students who ultimately launched the attack on Morse, saying that a key figure in the scandal did not find his interactions online with Morse remotely problematic until other students convinced him in hindsight that they were. A second student also told investigators that he considered his interactions platonic and innocent but that they took on a different connotation when put in the context of rumors being spread by other students.

The report’s authors included trivial information they had collected. “Witness Three reports that he was later told by other students that Morse gave him a ‘look’ when he entered the [October] event (indicating romantic or sexual interest). Witness Three did not observe anything of that nature,” the report found fit to inform the public.

Matt Walsh, a member of the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee and a board member of the Bay State Stonewall Democrats, said the exoneration of Morse is welcomed, but that in his view, the manner in which the report was written lingered on salacious details and sensationalized the mayor’s private life.

“I expected an official investigative report by a state university to be an objective assessment of facts, not a tabloid-style gossip piece,” said Walsh. “I’m glad UMass cleared Morse of wrongdoing, but they could have done so without legitimizing homophobic tropes that paint gay men as ‘creepy’ for engaging in consensual relationships.”

The allegations against Morse — first reported by the UMass Daily Collegian newspaper — relied on Tinder and Instagram messages from Morse to students at UMass over the past few years. Members of the College Democrats of Massachusetts and the UMass College Democrats accused Morse in a leaked letter of abusing his power as mayor and a part-time instructor at the school to solicit sex from young men who were students on campus, and decided to ban him from future events. But the UMass report’s findings do not show any impropriety — and, if anything, indicate that Morse was careful to stay away from even the hint of abuse of power or inappropriate relationships.

The Intercept’s previous reporting revealed that some students had planned to entrap and expose Morse in order to do political damage to the mayor and secure themselves internships with Neal. Neal has denied any involvement in the scheme. Campaign spokesperson Peter Panos told The Intercept in an email that the latest report makes the congressman’s innocence clear.

“This report confirms what Chairman Neal has always said, that he and his staff had nothing to do with these allegations,” said Panos. “We commend the University for their thorough investigation into the facts.”

The report doesn’t conclude anything either way on Neal’s involvement, but does note that there is no evidence of it.

Screenshots of text messages uncovered by investigators show that students also saw Morse’s position as a mayor and congressional candidate as a possible avenue for volunteer and internship opportunities.

Exhibit-13

Screenshot of Exhibit 13 from the UMass report.

Screenshot: University of Massachusetts

The report notes that Morse popped up as a “potential match” on Tinder for some students 18 and up, though most students did not receive an indication of interest from the mayor; in Tinder parlance, he did not “swipe right” on their profiles. Witness One in September 2019 “matched” with Morse on Tinder months after first meeting him at a spring event hosted by the UMass College Democrats.

As the report explains:

The two exchanged messages via Tinder, but did not arrange to meet in person. After the exchange of a couple of messages over a few days, Witness One sent Morse a photo from the event where they first met and asked of Morse,“now, do you remember me?”

Morse replied “yes,” and promptly un-matched with Witness One.

Witness One was not made uncomfortable by the interaction, he told the investigators, but after hearing from peers that the age difference between them was problematic, “he became discomfited by the fact that his attraction to Morse stemmed from the ‘allure’ of Morse’s role as a Mayor, which Witness One considered a position of power.”

Holyoke, a town of just 40,000 where Morse served as mayor after being elected at the age of 21, is a 30-minute drive from UMass Amherst.

Morse and Witness One connected later on Instagram and exchanged messages for several weeks. Around Halloween, Morse messaged Witness One to tell him the costume photo he posted was “cute.” Witness One replied, “Thanks!” Witness One told investigators that he found the message flirtatious.

Witness Three met Morse at an October 2019 event after the mayor had announced his run for Congress. The two exchanged contact information and connected on Instagram — a few non-campaign-related, but nonsexual, exchanges followed.

The report includes a large amount of gossip, including one of the key witnesses questioning why the other witnesses were so bothered by matching with a 30-year-old on Tinder after necessarily having set their age ranges to show interest in men of that age: “Witness Three states that both Witnesses One and Two expressed discomfort with Morse’s outreach to them on Tinder. While Witness Three understood their discomfort, he also questioned why a college student would set their Tinder preference to include matches in Morse’s age range if, in fact, they felt that matching with someone Morse’s age was ‘creepy.’”

The report makes clear that at least some of the allegations against Morse that later went public were rumor-driven group think, as is often the case in a college setting.

Throughout the exchanges, students talked among themselves about Morse and their perception of his interest in them, whether to reciprocate it, whether it could be leveraged for career-boosting moves down the line, and what effect the revelation of it could have on his campaign.

After the College Democrats event in October 2019, the group told investigators that they became concerned about Morse’s conduct and rumors about sexual contact. The following April, some members of the group began reaching out to journalists, as The Intercept previously reported.

The UMass report makes clear that at least some of the allegations against Morse that later went public were rumor-driven group think, as is often the case in a college setting: “Witness Three noted that, but for the fact that he later learned of Morse having messaged other students on Tinder and Instagram, he would not have interpreted Morse’s outreach to him on Instagram as evidence of interest in pursuing a physical or romantic relationship.”

Those concerns extended beyond the school’s group. Student A, a student at UMass, said a friend of hers had had sexual contact with Morse and later felt uncomfortable because of the “power dynamic.” Witness One described her to investigators as “especially adamant that the group needed to go public with what they knew.”

Student A wanted to take the statement to Twitter in July and went so far as to work with Witness One to draft a statement to post to the site, though she ultimately declined to do so.

According to The Intercept’s previous reporting, the report produced for the Mass Dems by attorney Cheryl Jacques, and the emails and text messages reproduced in the new UMass report, the leadership of the UMass College Democrats and the College Democrats of Massachusetts took their allegations against Morse to the state party. College Democrats of Massachusetts President Hayley Fleming reached out to Massachusetts Democrats Chair Gus Bickford and Executive Director Veronica Martinez for guidance as the group prepared to bar Morse from future meetings.

Bickford and Martinez pointed the students to their attorney Jim Roosevelt. Roosevelt, an attorney with Verrill Law and a grandson of former President Franklin Roosevelt, has been involved with Democratic politics at the state and national level for decades. In addition to being the Mass Dems lawyer, Roosevelt is a co-chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee and was CEO of Tufts Health Plan for 10 years.

Evidence in the new UMass report implicates Roosevelt in the writing of a letter for the College Democrats to send out to chapters. As one student said in a text on July 29 to other members of the CDMA executive board, Roosevelt advised the students through Bickford and Martinez that “if we want to move forward on leaking it to the press, someone would contact BLANK and tell him (on the record but unattributable so that their name doesn’t get published) that the CDMA eboard voted on this and sent it to the CM.” The full message exchange is attached to the report.

Exhibit-22

Screenshot of Exhibit 22 from the report.

Screenshot: University of Massachusetts

In an interview with The Intercept, Roosevelt said that the texts and prior allegations were wrong.

“It’s not clear to me what lawyer they’re talking about there, because that was not my advice,” said Roosevelt.

The only other lawyer that the students talked to, according to the Jacques report, was Andrea Kramer, who advised the students to talk to Morse on the phone if necessary but that the allegations could lead to “legal problems.”

The Intercept asked Roosevelt if there was a third attorney involved.

“I don’t know,” he replied.

Exhibit-41

Screenshot of Exhibit 4 from the report.

Screenshot: University of Massachusetts

The report includes an August 6 email detailing Roosevelt’s alleged role:

This is the statement that Mass Dems’ lawyer wrote for us and recommended we share with chapters:

“The boards of college Democrats of Massachusetts, UMass Amherst Democrats, and Amherst College Democrats have voted to notify Mayor Alex Morse and his campaign that he is no longer welcome at their events. This action was taken at the request of student members of the organizations. It is not based on his ideology or any current or past political contest. It is based on his past interactions with these students.”

Asked about it by The Intercept, Roosevelt emphatically denied any involvement in writing the statement.

“I did not write it,” Roosevelt said. “I did discuss it with them, so it’s not literally correct, but I did discuss it with them — but this was after the letter to Alex Morse and his response confirming all the allegations had already been in the press.”

The Intercept pointed out that the email is dated August 6 and that the allegations were not made public until the next day, August 7.

“Well, then, what the students told me was that they had already heard from reporters that it was going to be in the press the next morning,” Roosevelt said.

Within the state party, those involved in the scandal faced no consequences. Bickford was resoundingly reelected by party members to serve another four years as chair in November.

“To me, it says that many longer time members don’t care what he did,” Walsh told The Flashpoint newsletter in November. “They don’t care that he acted unethically, and they don’t care that he broke the bylaws. At the end of the day, he’s the devil they know. No matter what he does, they prefer him to a progressive who would change the status quo they rely on.”

Bickford did not respond to requests for comment. Martinez, in an emailed statement, appeared to claim that the report exonerated the state party.

“The UMass report shows that some of those involved have made conflicting statements about their interactions with the Party,” Martinez wrote. “The Party is committed to repairing the damage done as a result of this ordeal.”

But DSC member Nancy Stenberg, whose district includes Morse’s home, told The Intercept that the new report’s findings only served to confirm the bad behavior by party leadership — and are yet another sign that nothing will fundamentally change at the top.

“It has been business as usual from Gus Bickford since his declaration in November that he would work to repair the damage that his actions caused,” said Stenberg.

For the mayor, the emails and texts just confirm what he already knows to be true.

The report, Morse said, “just offers further evidence that there was a direct collaboration between the Mass Dems leadership and Jim Roosevelt and these students to time this letter and allegations as close to the election as possible to cause maximum impact.”

The post With No Allegation to Investigate, UMass Creepily Probes Alex Morse’s Romantic Life Instead appeared first on The Intercept.

The EU/GB agreement may not be approved before April – or ever…

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 9:45am in

Tony Connolly of the Irish Television network RTE has disclosed that the EU member states want to extend the Brexit agreement deadline from the end of February to some time in April. This could be of interest to Johnson, already seemingly throwing his weight around with regard to labour and tax laws, which he seems... Read more

The Class Composition of the Capitol Rioters (First Cut)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 9:25am in

A self-funded, petite bourgeoisie riot?

Big Tech Critics Alarmed at Direction of Biden Antitrust Personnel

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 7:02am in

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A last-minute campaign by a coalition of groups working to check monopoly is being launched to stave off what they worry could be a series of calamitous antitrust appointments by President-elect Joe Biden. The move follows reports on Friday from The American Prospect and The Intercept, confirmed and expanded on Sunday by Reuters, that Biden is leaning toward two attorneys with deep experience advising monopoly platforms to head the antitrust division at the Department of Justice.

Renata Hesse, a former Justice Department official under President Barack Obama, worked alongside Sen. Ted Cruz defending Google a decade ago, helped shepherd through the Amazon/Whole Foods merger, and represented several pharmaceutical companies and other clients in antitrust cases. She is the leading contender for the assistant attorney general for antitrust position, multiple sources told the Prospect and The Intercept on Friday. Sources also said that Juan Arteaga, another Obama Justice Department veteran who defended JPMorgan Chase and several other financial firms in fraud cases and represented AT&T in its merger with Time Warner, was also being considered but was more likely to be appointed deputy assistant attorney general in the antitrust division. Reuters on Sunday reported that Hesse and Arteaga were the leading candidates for AAG.

The Big Tech ties have progressives particularly exercised by the possible Hesse pick, though Arteaga’s long track record of working on behalf of consolidation is also alarming. There are active anti-monopoly cases at the antitrust division against Google and Facebook, the biggest such cases in 20 years. Hesse’s work for Google would likely force her to recuse herself from the former. There is bipartisan support for reining in Big Tech and a blueprint for how to do it in an exhaustive report from the House Antitrust Subcommittee. Picking a Big Tech lawyer would open up Biden to criticism from the left and right, aside from the unusual circumstance of the top attorney in the division recusing herself from the most important case under her watch.

“Bringing in anybody from Big Tech to a leadership role in antitrust is a political, policy, and managerial disaster,” said Zephyr Teachout, author of “Break ’Em Up” and a frequent Big Tech critic, referring to Hesse. “We know how the revolving door works. The ideology of big companies shapes the ideology of government.”

As recently as a couple years ago, Hesse seemed to dismiss antitrust concerns from Google’s control of the online search market. “The reason why people use Google Search, generally, is because they like it better,” Hesse said at a Federal Trade Commission field hearing. “This is when I start to worry about, are we gonna punish someone because they did a great job?” She also said that it’s “really easy to switch” away from Google if users don’t like the product. Hesse noted at the hearing that Google was a former but not a current client of hers.

The final decision on who will take the AAG position has not been made, but the current candidates for the top job and the deputy positions include a number of additional corporate attorneys, as well as at least one with progressive backing. Jonathan Kanter, a plaintiff’s lawyer who helped design the cases against Google and Facebook, remains in the mix for the AAG job. Gene Kimmelman is being considered for a deputy position, and while he brings consumer protection experience and has some progressive support, a recent paper of his suggesting that an entirely new agency is needed to tackle digital platforms has some reformers skeptical of his commitment to aggressive antitrust enforcement. Floating his name could be a way for the Biden team to make a show of progressive inclusion without changing the actual dynamic.

The elevation of Hesse and Arteaga suggests that Biden loyalist Terrell McSweeny may be disinclined to take the job. People close to the process have said that it has long been hers if she wanted it, but a recent family tragedy is weighing on the decision. If she passes, Biden is said to be willing to create a White House position for her that would coordinate antitrust policy across the FTC and Justice Department.

Hesse, Arteaga, and others short-listed for deputy positions immediately raised eyebrows among progressive groups. “American democracy is in crisis, and it is in some ways a result of social media corporations who have killed local newspapers and structured their business models to engage, radicalize, and addict users so they can monopolize ad markets,” reads a letter to Biden led by Public Citizen and the American Economic Liberties Project, and organized within a couple days. By Monday 40 groups had signed on. “We believe that appointing antitrust enforcers with no ties to dominant corporations in the industries they will be tasked with overseeing — particularly in regard to the technology sector — will help reestablish public trust in government at a critically important moment in our country’s history.”

Renata-Hesse-1

Renata Hesse, a former Justice Department official under President Barack Obama.

Photo: U.S. Department of Justice

Hesse has gone in and out of the antitrust division and corporate defense law firms since the 1990s. A stint at the Justice Department from 2002 to 2006 featured one notable action: advising the IRS in 2005 that it could restrict free tax filing services for taxpayers making above $50,000 per year. If private companies did so, they would be engaging in illegal price fixing. Because the IRS took the action, blessed by Hesse’s advice, it went through, ruining an effort by TaxAct to give free tax filing services to everyone. This allowed market leader Intuit (makers of TurboTax) to dominate and gouge consumers for tax preparation.

After the Justice Department service, Hesse spent five years practicing at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Google’s go-to law firm. She did significant antitrust work for Google during this time, including defending the company against state attorney general investigations. Advocating for Google in a case in Texas in 2010, she teamed up with a lawyer from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius named Ted Cruz, accompanying him to numerous meetings with the Texas attorney general. Ultimately, Hesse and Cruz were successful, and no action was taken against the company.

Cruz is currently fighting to retain his law degree and bar license after contributing to the incitement of a riot at the U.S. Capitol, an event promoted on Big Tech platforms like Google’s YouTube. Hesse is on the verge of getting a promotion.

She went back to the Justice Department in 2012, overseeing the Comcast/NBCUniversal deal, which kicked off a trend of vertical combination in media of networks, movie studios, and cable distributors. She waved through Humana’s purchase of insurance provider Arcadian and the acquisition of Virgin America by Alaska Airlines, among other deals.

Hesse rose to become acting assistant attorney general for the antitrust division from July 2016 until the end of the Obama administration. In September 2016, at a time when the Obama administration was reckoning with economic consolidation on their watch, Hesse gave a speech that was lauded for its willingness to criticize traditional economics-based approaches to antitrust and its endorsement of “looking more broadly at the effects of business practices on competition.” That approach dovetails with the one anti-monopoly advocates are pushing.

Hesse argued that mergers between large competing firms that would result in significant market share should automatically be looked at skeptically, even if it couldn’t be proven that consumers would suffer through higher prices immediately. (Then-Vice President Biden’s office reportedly helped write the speech.)

“Nobody out there thinks Obama’s administration was strong on antitrust. There’s no need to go back to a weak, ineffective regime.”

The speech hit a nerve, as evidenced from the Heritage Foundation’s concern over sending the “wrong signals” to businesses. But notably absent in the speech was any reference to the big technology platforms, which at the time were dominating the conversation about the need for stronger antitrust enforcement. Within a few months, the Obama term was up, and Hesse was out of the Justice Department. And she more than made up for her heresies.

She became a partner and co-head of the antitrust group at Sullivan & Cromwell, a major corporate law firm, where she now works. The hiring announcement cited Hesse’s “deep and highly relevant government experience.” It almost immediately paid off. Later on, accepting the “Competition Group of the Year” award by Law360 in 2019, Hesse highlighted how the firm’s small teams were able to clear giant mergers, because “the quality of the resources is what really matters.”

Hesse was a lead adviser to Amazon on its $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods, which elevated the e-commerce giant into physical retail. She worked for drugmakers Merck, Novartis, and Amgen on various mergers. She advised Fiserv’s $22 billion acquisition of First Data, which created a near-monopoly in financial services technology solutions. She advised Praxair’s $80 billion merger with Linde, creating a market-leading industrial gas giant. She worked on the Harris/L3 Technologies defense contractor combination. She helped push through American Express’s purchase of online lender Kabbage.

These numerous involvements with major companies whose future deals would come under the purview of the Justice Department present a significant problem for Hesse, Teachout noted. Large swaths of the pharmaceutical, technology, and banking sectors would probably have to draw a recusal from the head of the department. “You would have Hesse recusing from the biggest ongoing antitrust case that key decisions have to be made on,” she said, citing Hesse’s work with Google. “It’s weird and awkward; it creates weird management questions. Who will be running the Google case then?”

Hesse’s involvement with Google is a family affair. Her husband, Joshua Soven, a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, is currently working for Google. He’s also represented Grubhub, LinkedIn, Marriott, Tenet Healthcare, Hewlett-Packard, and BNSF Railway, and he was lead counsel for T-Mobile in its successful acquisition of Sprint. Soven, who worked in President George W. Bush’s antitrust division, is a regular donor to Republican candidates, including Sens. Josh Hawley, Mo.; Ron Johnson, Wisc.; Pat Toomey, Pa.; and Susan Collins of Maine. His antitrust work could also trigger Hesse’s recusal from various cases.

For her part, Hesse maxed out donations to Biden’s presidential campaign and has contributed over $27,000 to the Democratic National Committee since 2008. To reformers, relying so heavily on Obama alumni is setting the antitrust agenda up for failure. “If you put in Obama alumni, you have evidence that they’ve done a bad job before, and there’s a natural human nature to believe that your previous decisions were the right ones,” said Teachout. “Nobody out there thinks Obama’s administration was strong on antitrust. There’s no need to go back to a weak, ineffective regime.”

Monopoly opponents remain hopeful that Kanter could emerge from all the jockeying if the decision is elevated to the highest levels. Bruce Reed, a longtime Biden friend and ally, has long stood on the furthest-right end of the spectrum within Democratic politics, but the politics of monopoly scramble the conventional calculus, and Reed happens to be a longtime critic of Big Tech’s dominance.

Biden chief of staff Ron Klain has traditionally not been seen as a skeptic of Silicon Valley, but the politics on the issue have moved fast. Klain has spent parts of the past 15 years as general counsel for a venture capital shop called Revolution, founded by AOL chief executive Steve Case. He also has advised Higher Ground Labs, an investment firm focused on campaign tech backed by Reid Hoffman, cofounder of LinkedIn.

The staffing decisions take on added import now that Biden has chosen FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Consumer finance advocates cheered the selection of Chopra, known as an unapologetic ally of the little guy. But his exit from the FTC leaves a gaping hole that is wider than just his one vote, as Chopra’s depth of knowledge and political dexterity shifted the balance of power on the commission and allowed him to create unlikely coalitions against the power of Big Tech and other consolidated industries. Unless he is replaced by someone of similar stature, such as Columbia law professor Lina Khan, a leading anti-monopoly voice who co-authored the House Antitrust Subcommittee report and is being pushed by advocates of checking consolidation, tech titans will have an easier time before the commission. Chopra’s move from the FTC to the CFPB also underscores a major problem plaguing progressives in Washington: Even as the conversation gravitates toward their perspective, the bench is so thin from four decades of neoliberal hegemony that there aren’t enough bodies to execute that vision.

 Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gene Kimmelman, senior adviser at Public Knowledge, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 7, 2016.

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In the absence of that progressive bench, several Obama-era colleagues could reunite at the Justice Department’s antitrust division, according to several sources. Arteaga (if he doesn’t get the AAG job), Sonia Pfaffenroth, and Kimmelman are among those likely to be placed in senior positions. No appointments have been made as of yet.

Arteaga, a partner at Crowell & Moring, served in the antitrust division from 2013 to 2017. At Crowell, he has defended JPMorgan Chase from charges that it manipulated benchmark interest rates known as LIBOR; Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS, and Deutsche Bank in litigation involving corruption in the mortgage-backed securities market; Morgan Stanley in a securities fraud case; a “global investment bank” in a separate mortgage-backed securities case; and Mastercard in antitrust litigation brought by American Express and Discover. Arteaga has also worked on numerous cases involving AT&T, a top Crowell client, including its acquisition of DirecTV and its purchase of Time Warner. He represented United Technologies in its acquisition of Rockwell Collins and defended private equity giant KKR against accusations that it purchased grocery chain Bruno’s and forced it into bankruptcy while extracting value.

Pfaffenroth has also gone back and forth between top corporate antitrust law firm Arnold & Porter and the Justice Department. Pfaffenroth’s clients in private practice have included Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, Bayer, Koito Manufacturing, Fujikura Ltd., Snapfish, Unilever, Boston Scientific, mining company Bucyrus International, and more.

Kimmelman was chief counsel for the antitrust division in the Obama administration and has served in several Washington, D.C., think tanks and organizations like the New America Foundation, Consumers Union, the Consumer Federation of America, and Public Citizen. He was CEO of the telecom-focused Public Knowledge and is now a senior adviser there.

Public Knowledge takes a modest amount of money from Google, but Kimmelman is normally described as a critic of Big Tech. He recently co-wrote a paper for the Brookings Institution with former Federal Communications Commission chair Tom Wheeler that called for a separate agency focused on digital platforms to regulate large technology firms. This irked some reformers who believe that a new agency would only muddle already clear anti-monopoly cases against the platforms and would be subject to corporate capture.

Other tech critics have not forgiven Kimmelman for his role in the Justice Department suing book publishers early in the Obama administration for teaming up with Apple on a pricing system for e-books to defend themselves against Amazon’s market power. “Instead of suing Amazon for monopolizing the book market, Kimmelman chose to sue publishers for defending themselves against Jeff Bezos,” said Matt Stoller, author of “Goliath” and director of research at the American Economic Liberties Project. “That is an example of using antitrust law to help monopolists.”

Obama’s performance on antitrust and corporate power was savagely criticized last week in a comprehensive report from the American Economic Liberties Project, showing how economic concentration tightened across a host of industries in the Obama era and federal regulators did little to stop it. The report recommended that Biden move on from the failed philosophy of the past and choose aggressive reformers to crack down on monopolies. The names being floated oversaw several disastrous mergers in the Obama era, including American/US Airways, Anheuser-Busch InBev/SABMiller, and Comcast/NBCUniversal.

“An Obama restoration in antitrust is the worst possible outcome,” said Jeff Hauser of the Revolving Door Project, another Big Tech critic. “Hesse would represent Obama 2.0 on antitrust, which would give us ever-strengthened Big Tech platform monopolies and so much more.”

The title of the report, “The Courage to Learn,” was a nod toward the likelihood that at least some Obama alumni would wind up in positions of power, coupled with the demand that they learn from their previous mistakes. But combining a record of reticence to enforce antitrust laws with experience working on behalf of the very firms now being sued was a bit much, said Sarah Miller, executive director of AELP, which produced the report. “Especially at this moment, it’s critical to avoid appointments that have a track record of helping monopolies like Google and Amazon consolidate power,” she said. “Elevating aggressive state enforcers or experienced plaintiffs’ side attorneys will set the department up for success rather than looking backwards to those who oversaw a catastrophic era of lethargy.”

The post Big Tech Critics Alarmed at Direction of Biden Antitrust Personnel appeared first on The Intercept.

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