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Illegal Immigration Leading To Major Drug Problems Inside America: Lt. Gen. Flynn

Illegal Immigration Leading To Major Drug Problems Inside America: Lt. Gen. Flynn Authored by Zachary Steiber via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), The flood of illegal immigrants that have entered the United States in the past several decades has contributed to the rise in drugs and drug addiction inside the country, former national security adviser and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn says. “We have a domestic problem that is fueled by large, large numbers of deadly drugs and large amounts of money,” Flynn said on EpochTV’s “Facts Matter” program. Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn in an interview with EpochTV. (The Epoch Times) The illegal immigration crisis has reached unprecedented levels under President Joe Biden, with the United States setting new records for illegal alien arrests at the U.S.–Mexico border for both a calendar year and a fiscal year. But the problem goes back 25 years, and has spanned administrations of both parties, said Flynn, who was the national security adviser under President Donald Trump. If even just 10 percent of the illegal immigrants are criminals, that means a force that’s larger than the entire U.S. Marine Corps has illegally entered the country in recent years, Flynn said. Criminal Cartels The criminals, often part of cartels, often go to cities and ply drugs, which has deepened the addiction problems there. “They get organized, and they get brought into the cities, they get brought into the urban areas, and they get some money into their pockets, and they’re in there, and they get some orders to get out there and sort of flood the zone with drugs,” Flynn said. “They’re killing this country with the likes of fentanyl, and opioids and heroin. And they’re getting away with it.” While some convicted criminals are deported, others are being allowed to remain in the United States under orders from top Biden administration officials, who have asserted that there is not enough manpower to deport all illegal immigrants that are convicted of additional crimes in addition to entering or remaining illegally. Speaking in Florida, Flynn said he backed some of the moves Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has made, but decried the busing of illegal immigrants from Texas and Arizona to Washington as a “publicity stunt” that is being cheered by the cartels. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey have been footing the bill for the buses, which has been described as putting pressure on Biden by sending illegal aliens to the city in which he lives. Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser recently requested National Guard assistance due to the influx. In any case, the illegal immigration and drug issues require action at the federal, state, and local levels, according to Flynn. Read more here... Tyler Durden Fri, 08/05/2022 - 19:40.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytAug 5th, 2022

The Fentanyl Crisis: Brought To You By Drug Prohibition

The Fentanyl Crisis: Brought To You By Drug Prohibition Authored by Brian McGlinchey via Stark Realities As drug overdoses continue rising in the United States, one drug has emerged as the most notorious killer of our day: fentanyl. Unfortunately, those clamoring loudest about fentanyl’s death toll support policies that actually bolster its position in the illicit drug trade. First approved for U.S. medical use in 1968, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used to counter severe pain after surgery, and chronic severe pain. Though similar to morphine or heroin, it’s 50 to 100 times more potent. Most of the fentanyl circulating on the streets doesn’t come from pharmaceutical companies. According to the DEA, black market fentanyl is “primarily manufactured in foreign clandestine labs and smuggled into the United States through Mexico.” China is a major source of its chemical ingredients and some finished product too. As with other black-market knock-offs, the inconsistency of illicit fentanyl makes it more dangerous. Worse, it’s often laced into other drugs, including cocaine, heroin, marijuana and counterfeit pills disguised as pharmaceutical-grade Oxycontin, Xanax, and Adderall. Though its effect varies by a user’s size and tolerance, ingesting just 2 milligrams can be fatal. That fact lends itself to jolting descriptions of fentanyl’s lethality by public officials, pundits and click-chasing media. A recent Fox News headline is just one of countless examples of fentanyl sensationalism: “Colorado State Patrol seizes enough fentanyl to kill 25 million people.” When you consider that, in 2021, there were 108,000 overdose deaths from all drugs in the entire country, you can see where headlines and rhetoric centered on such calculations aren’t meant to enlighten an audience so much as to shock it. American discourse about fentanyl is further warped by politicians and sloppy journalists who promulgate urban legends about cops and bystanders dying from merely touching fentanyl powder. For example, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy recently asked Fox’s Sean Hannity if he’d heard about “a young woman who picked up a dollar bill sitting on the floor of a McDonald’s and fell down” because fentanyl was supposedly on it. “That’s how deadly it is.” Like many similar tales, this one proved false. Fentanyl can be plenty deadly, but not that way. Over-the-top fentanyl scaremongering isn’t just about attracting an audience. For some—like McCarthy—it’s an opportunistic means of advancing a goal of reducing illegal immigration via tightened border security. Setting immigration policy aside and keeping our focus here on fentanyl, we now come to an essential truth that’s little-known either inside or outside of government: The more you intensify drug interdiction along the border and elsewhere, the more you elevate fentanyl as the drug trade’s import of choice. Blame it on the “Iron Law of Prohibition.” First put forth by Richard Cowan in 1986, the Iron Law of Prohibition states: “As law enforcement becomes more intense, the potency of prohibited substances increases.” To appreciate the dynamic, let’s look back to America’s experiment with alcohol prohibition, with some help from the Cato Institute’s Trevor Burrus: “Smugglers and bootleggers preferred high‐​potency spirits because they are easier to transport illicitly. Consequently, distilled alcohol and fortified wines became almost 90% of alcohol consumption after Prohibition, compared to 40% before…During alcohol Prohibition, speakeasies were essentially bars that only served Everclear.” Now think about it from a drug trafficker’s perspective: Would you rather try smuggling 10 pounds of fentanyl, a thousand pounds of heroin or a truckload of pot? Infographic via Filter The stark reality is that enforcement of drug laws isn’t the answer to the fentanyl crisis—it’s the very reason we have a fentanyl crisis. That crisis is also driven by regulatory crackdowns on prescription opiates, which drive both addicts and those with legitimate needs away from pills of uniform quality and dosage and into the dicey, deadly realm of black market alternatives. Consider this: In 2011, oxycodone topped the overdose death charts, with 5,587 fatalities. That led the government to impose new policies to frighten doctors away from prescribing opioids. By 2016, fentanyl was the new top killer, and it was associated with 18,335 deaths — more than triple the 2011 oxycodone tally. You can build a coast-to-coast border wall that extends 200 feet above and below ground, and fentanyl will keep flowing into the country via other avenues — as it does already to lesser degrees. The more difficult you make it to move fentanyl, the higher its price goes, inviting new entrants into the black market, and incentivizing the adoption of innovative and more elaborate ways of meeting America’s perpetual demand for intoxicants. At some point, it could even incentivize cartels to move production inside U.S. borders. Those wouldn’t be the only outcomes. If drug warriors and border hawks somehow manage to make it far more difficult to move fentanyl, fentanyl will likely be dethroned by something worse. Indeed, earlier this year, an even more dangerous synthetic opioid started making its own grim headlines — it’s called isotonitazene, or ISO, and it’s reportedly 20 times stronger than fentanyl. The Iron Law of Prohibition strikes again. Prohibition hasn’t just made drugs more dangerous. Just as alcohol prohibition did, drug prohibition also fosters violence among black market operators. When’s the last time you heard of a gunfight breaking out between rival alcohol distributors? Prohibition also invites many hideous forms of authoritarian excess, to include frequently-fruitless dismantling of vehicles, body cavity searches, and even coerced colonoscopies that come up empty. In short, drug prohibition’s harmful results far exceed its beneficial ones. Meanwhile, drugs are as readily obtainable today as they were when Richard Nixon declared a federal war on drugs a half-century ago. So what are we to do? Though it’s contrary to intuition and a shock to many people’s sensibilities, the proper response to the fentanyl crisis and other collateral damage of the war on drugs is clear: across-the-board drug legalization. That isn’t an endorsement of drug abuse any more than legalized alcohol endorses alcohol abuse — which, it should be noted, has a death toll that rivals if not exceeds that of drug abuse. Rather, full legalization of both production and possession is the logical position for those who understand that policies must be judged not by their intentions, but by their results. Stark Realities undermines official narratives, demolishes conventional wisdom and exposes fundamental myths across the political spectrum. Read more and subscribe at starkrealities.substack.com Tyler Durden Fri, 08/05/2022 - 23:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeAug 5th, 2022

Illegal Immigration Leading To Major Drug Problems Inside America: Lt. Gen. Flynn

Illegal Immigration Leading To Major Drug Problems Inside America: Lt. Gen. Flynn Authored by Zachary Steiber via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), The flood of illegal immigrants that have entered the United States in the past several decades has contributed to the rise in drugs and drug addiction inside the country, former national security adviser and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn says. “We have a domestic problem that is fueled by large, large numbers of deadly drugs and large amounts of money,” Flynn said on EpochTV’s “Facts Matter” program. Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn in an interview with EpochTV. (The Epoch Times) The illegal immigration crisis has reached unprecedented levels under President Joe Biden, with the United States setting new records for illegal alien arrests at the U.S.–Mexico border for both a calendar year and a fiscal year. But the problem goes back 25 years, and has spanned administrations of both parties, said Flynn, who was the national security adviser under President Donald Trump. If even just 10 percent of the illegal immigrants are criminals, that means a force that’s larger than the entire U.S. Marine Corps has illegally entered the country in recent years, Flynn said. Criminal Cartels The criminals, often part of cartels, often go to cities and ply drugs, which has deepened the addiction problems there. “They get organized, and they get brought into the cities, they get brought into the urban areas, and they get some money into their pockets, and they’re in there, and they get some orders to get out there and sort of flood the zone with drugs,” Flynn said. “They’re killing this country with the likes of fentanyl, and opioids and heroin. And they’re getting away with it.” While some convicted criminals are deported, others are being allowed to remain in the United States under orders from top Biden administration officials, who have asserted that there is not enough manpower to deport all illegal immigrants that are convicted of additional crimes in addition to entering or remaining illegally. Speaking in Florida, Flynn said he backed some of the moves Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has made, but decried the busing of illegal immigrants from Texas and Arizona to Washington as a “publicity stunt” that is being cheered by the cartels. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey have been footing the bill for the buses, which has been described as putting pressure on Biden by sending illegal aliens to the city in which he lives. Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser recently requested National Guard assistance due to the influx. In any case, the illegal immigration and drug issues require action at the federal, state, and local levels, according to Flynn. Read more here... Tyler Durden Fri, 08/05/2022 - 19:40.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytAug 5th, 2022

Democrats" priorities have crumbled under Biden and time is running out for the party to deliver before the midterms

The party has failed to deliver on key promises largely because of its razor-thin majority in the Senate. President Joe Biden speaks about his infrastructure agenda at the New Hampshire Port Authority in Portsmouth, N.H., Tuesday, April 19, 2022Patrick Semansky/AP Democrats have run into several blockades in their quest to pass ambitious policy.  They've hit a wall on issues such as voting rights, abortion, and climate.  We took a look at Democrats' priorities and evaluated what shot they have at passage. President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats have checked some big-ticket items off their list before the first half of his term is over. First, there was the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, followed by a bipartisan infrastructure bill, and a narrow gun safety bill that nevertheless was supported by Republicans and represented the biggest change to gun laws in 20 years. They confirmed the first Black woman to the Supreme Court, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. But when it comes to the 2022 midterm elections in November, it's what the party hasn't gotten done that's making the most headlines. Time and time again Democrats have had to contend with the confines of legislating in a 50-50 Senate, weighing various priorities, as well as the prominent divisions between centrists and progressives. In recent months, Democrats are increasingly questioning whether Biden is the right person to deliver on the party's promises. Time is running out on Democrats who want to deliver before the November midterms. Republicans are widely expected to win the House, which would make policymaking incredibly difficult during the last two years of Biden's term. The GOP also has a shot at winning a majority in the Senate. But there is still time for Democrats to move ahead. We reviewed each of their big policy items, why they failed, and scored (out of 5) their chance of passage before the midterms: Protester David Barrows carries a sign during a rally to press Congress to pass voting rights protections and the "Build Back Better Act," Monday, Dec. 13, 2021, in Washington.Patrick Semansky/APVoting rights & democracy reform: Biden and congressional Democrats placed passing voting rights legislation as a top agenda item in response to a years-long erosion of the Voting Rights Act at the hands of the Supreme Court, new restrictions tightening voting rights in Republican-controlled states, and President Donald Trump's brazen efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss.                                       But Democratic leaders' soaring rhetoric came careening against the math of the 50-50 Senate and the reality of the filibuster. Neither of the bills that Senate Democrats proposed, a sweeping voting rights and campaign finance reform bill and legislation to refortify the VRA, garnered firm support from Republicans. Most GOP senators decried the measures as a federal takeover of elections and a Democratic power grab and filibustered voting rights legislation four times in 2021 and 2022. Biden expressed his frustration with the bills stalling out in a January 2022 speech in which he blasted the Senate as a "shell of its former self," saying the filibuster has been "weaponized" and "abused." "I've been having these quiet conversations with members of Congress for two months," Biden said. "I'm tired of being quiet!"After that speech, in which Biden endorsed filibuster reform to pass voting rights legislation, Schumer deployed the last-ditch tactic of calling for a vote on changing the Senate's filibuster rules via the "nuclear option," under which a simple majority of senators can vote to change the chamber's filibuster rules, in January 2022But two Democrats — Sen. Krysten Sinema of Arizona and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia — have been steadfast in their opposition to scrapping or modifying the filibuster rules, arguing that lowering the threshold to pass Democratic priorities would come back to bite their party when Republicans retake power and exacerbate partisan divisions in the chamber. The two Democrats joined all 50 Senate Republicans in shooting down Schumer's proposal to change the filibuster rules, striking the final nail in the coffin for Democrats' voting rights push.Since then, Manchin and GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine have been leading a bipartisan group of senators in talks for more narrowly-targeted election reform focused on preventing partisan sabotage of elections, including modernizing and shoring up federal laws governing the counting of electoral votes and the presidential transition process. But the group has yet to announce an agreement or legislative framework with the clock ticking toward August recess. Any legislation they do propose would fall far short of the voting rights protections Democrats want. And it could be a heavy lift to get 60 votes in the Senate and pass the House. Chances of priority passing before the midterms: 1/5Benjamin Crump, center, the civil rights attorney representing the family of George Floyd, joined at right by NAACP President Derrick Johnson, speaking to reporters after they met with Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., about police reform legislation, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, May 25, 2021Scott J. Applewhite/APPolice reform: The May 2020 murder of George Floyd and police-inflicted killings of other Black Americans, including Daunte Wright and Breonna Taylor, sparked massive protests around the globe and reinvigorated a push to enhance accountability and overhaul standards for law enforcement at the federal level and in many states and cities. After taking office, Biden directed Congress to deliver a police reform bill to his desk by May 25, 2021, the one-year anniversary of Floyd's murder.In June 2020 and again in March 2021, the House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a wide-ranging bill sponsored by Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee that would ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants for federal drug cases, require all federal law enforcement officers to wear body cameras, end qualified immunity, impose more federal oversight of police departments, and restrict access to military-grade equipment. Democratic Sen. Cory Booker and Republican Sen. Tim Scott took point on leading bipartisan negotiations to work out a version of the legislation that could earn 60 votes in the Senate. But talks officially broke down in September 2021 "after months of exhausting every possible pathway to a bipartisan deal," and securing the backing of major law enforcement unions, Booker said. The negotiations fell apart when the parties deadlocked over how far to rein in qualified immunity, the controversial legal doctrine that shields law enforcement officials from personal liability for actions they take on the job, including the use of force, that don't violate "established law." "Unfortunately, even with this law enforcement support and further compromises we offered, there was still too wide a gulf with our negotiating partners and we faced significant obstacles to securing a bipartisan deal," Booker said.Chances of priority passing before the midterms: 0/5 Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., express their frustration during a news conference as the Supreme Court is poised to possibly overturn Roe v. Wade and urge President Joe Biden to use his executive authority to protect abortion rights, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, June 15, 2022.Scott J. Applewhite/APEnshrining abortion rights nationally:On June 24, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a move that made abortion illegal in some states. Most congressional Democrats are in favor of a national abortion rights law, and have voted in favor of the Women's Health Protection Act. The bill would make abortion legal in every state and undo most restrictions. It is similar to the abortion rights set out under the now-defunct Roe, though it also allows abortions after viability for undefined "health reasons." For that reason, Republicans have called it "extreme" and refused to support the legislation. It passed the House but has already failed twice in the Senate this year. Eleven more senators would be needed to pass the legislation under the 60-vote threshold.  Manchin opposes the legislation, saying it goes beyond Roe. That's why Biden calling for a filibuster carve-out on June 30 is unlikely to be effective. Manchin and Sinema remain staunchly opposed to abolishing the filibuster for any reason. Even without the filibuster, Democrats lack the 50 votes they would need to pass their bill. GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Collins both support abortion rights but say Democrats' bill has gone too far because it doesn't create moral or religious exemptions. Collins is working on a bipartisan abortion rights bill with Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, but one senior Democratic Senate aide told Insider that Democratic women senators and abortion rights groups say privately that they don't see the legislation going anywhere because nine Republicans would need to get onboard, "which everyone knows will never happen right now." Democrats have stressed that they want to put Republicans on the spot over the issue to draw a contrast between the parties ahead of the November midterms. Only remote possibilities exist for enshrining abortion rights nationally. One would be for some Republicans to cross over on the filibuster and on the abortion rights bill. Another would be for Democrats and Republicans to compromise on which measures they're willing to support.One former leader in the reproductive rights movement told Insider that even a limited bill, such as guaranteeing access to abortion in the first trimester, would help 90% of patients seeking to terminate pregnancies. In such a scenario, states would be allowed to raise the gestation floor if they choose. But both sides remain staunchly divided on the issue, meaning that without a supermajority in the Senate or the abolishment of the filibuster, it could remain in limbo with a patchwork of rules from state to state for years to come. Chances of priority passing before the midterms: 0/5Job applicants fill out forms with CSC Global, left, and Skilled Staffing, right, at the 305 Second Chance Job & Resource Expo, Friday, June 10, 2022, in MiamiLynn Sladky/APThe economy and climate: The Democratic record on the economy is a mixed one. The party's enormous legislative ambitions to overhaul the American economy and diminish worsening inequality have been undermined by their needle-thin majorities in both chambers of Congress.Biden campaigned on restoring the economy after it sharply contracted at the onset of the pandemic with mass business closures and a drop in discretionary spending. Taking office, he instilled a sense of urgency as he sought to avoid the kind of drawn-out recovery that plagued past economic crises in the US."There is real pain overwhelming the real economy," Biden said as he introduced a COVID-19 rescue plan in January 2021. "The very health of our nation is at stake."During Biden's time in office, Americans have poured back into the labor market and unemployment has fallen to lows last seen in the late 1960s. In 2021, the economy grew at its fastest pace since the Reagan years.Some of that progress can be attributed to the $1.9 trillion stimulus law, which provided financial relief to Americans along with state and municipal governments. It also set aside money for vaccine distribution that helped states and cities ease pandemic restrictions. The law passed with unanimous GOP opposition.However, the stimulus also partly caused another problem that blindsided Biden administration officials. Inflation is now at its highest level since the 1980s, largely the product of Americans with plenty of cash to spend facing supply-chain bottlenecks.Democrats made limited legislative headway on what they intended to do. Biden secured a $1 trillion infrastructure law with some GOP support, locking in a victory that eluded past Republican and Democratic presidents. It contained $550 billion in new funding to repair roads and bridges, airports, ports and waterways.Other parts of Biden's economic agenda — including climate initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage the production of electric vehicles — remain an open question. Sen. Joe Manchin speaks with Sen. Kyrsten SinemaJacquelyn Martin/AP PhotoThe infrastructure law was originally tied to the passage of a larger social spending and climate bill. Binding the priorities together was intended to keep the small but potent centrist faction in line with progressives. But when Republicans lined up against the larger bill, Democratic leadership decided to settle for the smaller infrastructure-only package, which Biden signed into law in November.  Efforts to advance immigration reform have also floundered. Some Democrats initially viewed setting up a pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants as a way to finance their spending ambitions, arguing it would provide an economic boost. But it was knocked out of the social bill by a Senate official and separate talks with Republicans haven't yielded a breakthrough.Manchin and Sinema both wielded immense influence over the Democratic agenda in the past year. That allowed them to shrink the size and scope of the original safety-net bill since Democrats couldn't afford to lose their votes in the 50-50 Senate.The House-approved "Build Back Better" legislation died after Manchin torpedoed it in December. Democrats are poised to take another shot at passing a slimmer energy, climate and tax bill this month. But it won't include many of the initiatives that Biden pressed for, such as establishing a monthly child tax credit for parents, universal pre-K, tuition-free community college, and expanding affordable housing.Senate Democrats face a serious time-crunch to approve the bill and send it to Biden's desk before the start of the August recess. But they've blown past deadlines before. Democrats have until Sept. 30 to pass it with many elements outstanding as lawmakers begin focusing on campaigning.Chances of priority passing before the midterms: 2/5President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama stand together on stage during an event about the Affordable Care Act, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, April 5, 2022.AP Photo/Carolyn KasterExpanding healthcare coverage:Biden ran on a promise to expand the Affordable Care Act, more colloquially known as Obamacare, so that more people living in the US could buy health insurance. Biden and the Democratic-controlled Congress did deliver on that to a small extent. The 2021 American Rescue Plan Biden signed into law poured billions of federal dollars into the private health insurance market. Doing so allowed buyers to get health insurance at a lower price than before the stimulus law, sometimes even at no — or very little — cost to themselves.But Democrats appear to have largely backed off Biden's promise to create a "public option" for health insurance. Such a system would give people the option to buy a health plan similar to Medicare, rather than going to private insurers. As for the subsidies, they are limited and set to run out at the end of the year. That means that in the weeks leading up to the election Democrats will face a barrage of stories about soaring health insurance costs. An estimated 13 million people are expected to be affected, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Once again, Manchin holds the cards. In June, he signaled to Insider he was open to expanding the Obamacare subsidies but wanted to workshop them so they wouldn't go to wealthy people. Under current law, some people receive more generous subsidies than others depending on their income. People with middle-class incomes and higher pay no more than 8.5% of their annual income on health insurance they buy through the Obamacare marketplaces, with the federal government picking up the rest of the tab. Democrats may be able to extend the subsidies or make them permanent alongside their economic policy proposals. Health insurers are pressing lawmakers to get it done, and Democratic leaders have said it's a priority. Manchin has been noncommittal. Democrats also are in talks about a bill that would allow the federal government to negotiate the prices of some prescription medicines. Doing so would help pay for the health insurance subsidies. But pharmaceutical companies have been generous to Democrats during recent election cycles and will oppose any attempt to curb their profits. Plus the prescriptions proposal would need to get the agreement of the Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, to ensure that it fits the rules of reconciliation. If it doesn't, then whether Senators accept it or not becomes moot.  Chances of priority passing before the midterms: 3/5Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJul 9th, 2022

To Avoid Civil War, Learn To Tolerate Different Laws In Different States

To Avoid Civil War, Learn To Tolerate Different Laws In Different States Authored by Ryan McMaken via The Mises Institute, Most commentary on the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization—which overturns Roe v. Wade—has focused on the decision's effect on the legality of abortion in various states. That's an important issue. It may be, however, that the Dobbs decision's effect on political decentralization in the United States is a far bigger deal. After all, the ruling isn't so much about abortion as it is about the federal government's role in abortion. State governments are free to make abortion 100 percent legal within their own borders. Some states have already done so. The court's ruling limits only the federal government's prerogatives over abortion law, and this has the potential to lead to many other limitations on federal power as well. In this way, Dobbs is a victory for those seeking to limit federal power.  The decentralization is all to the good, and there's nothing novel about it. Historically, state laws in the US have varied broadly on a variety of topics from alcohol consumption to divorce. This was also true of abortion before Roe v. Wade.  Moreover, decentralizing abortion policy in this way actually works to defuse national conflict. This is becoming even more important as cultural divides in the United States are clearly accelerating and become more entrenched. Rather than fight with increasing alarm and aggression over who controls the federal government—and thus who imposes the winner's preferences on everyone else—people in different states will have more choices in choosing whether to live under proabortion or antiabortion regimes. In other words, decentralization forces policymakers to behave as they should in a confederation of states: they must tolerate people doing things differently across state lines.  This will be essential in avoiding disaster, and laissez-faire liberals (i.e., "classical liberals") have long supported decentralization as a key in avoiding dangerous political conflicts. Ludwig von Mises, for example, supported decentralization because, as he put it, it "is the only feasible and effective way of preventing revolutions and civil ... wars." The Impulse to Use Federal Power to Force Policy on Everyone Law has never been uniform across state lines in the United States, although this was not for a lack of trying on the part of the federal government. As the power of the federal government grew throughout the twentieth century, the central government repeatedly sought to make policy uniform and put it under the control of federal courts and regulatory agencies. Prior to Roe v. Wade, abortion was a state and local matter only. Before the drug war, the federal government did not dictate to states what plants they should let their citizens consume. Before the Volstead Act, "dry" states and "wet" states had far different policies on alcohol sales. Some states had lenient divorce laws. Some did not. Some states allowed gambling. Even immigration was once the domain of state government. Although some federal law enforcement agents existed in the nineteenth century, "law and order" was overwhelmingly a state and local matter prior to the rise of agencies like the FBI.  The cumulative effect of making all these areas the prerogative of federal regulators, agents, and courts has been to convince many Americans that the United States government ought to federalize most areas of daily life. In the modern way of thinking, only less important or trivial matters are to be left up to the state and local governments. For many Americans, they learned to just think that it was abnormal for the state next door to have different gun policies or drug policies than one's home state.  Drugs, Alcohol, and Guns In the past decade, this impulse to intervene in neighboring states has been highlighted by the de facto end of nationwide marijuana prohibition in the United States. Beginning in 2012 with Colorado and Washington State, recreational marijuana use has become essentially legal in nearly two dozen US states. This means a resident of one state can travel to a neighboring state to consume a drug that is illegal in his or her home state. Some state governments have a hard time dealing with this. Politicians in antimarijuana states complained that their citizens had too much access to prohibited substances. Not surprisingly, attorneys general in Nebraska and Oklahoma sued Colorado in federal court in an attempt to force Colorado to reimpose marijuana prohibition on its citizens. Fortunately, these lawsuits—which if successful would have greatly expanded federal power over states—failed.  Alcohol prohibition grew out of the same desire to force some states' preferences on all other states. In 1917, only twenty-seven states embraced statewide prohibition. It took a constitutional amendment to impose prohibition on all the rest.  Moreover, laws governing the purchase and carry of firearms vary broadly from state to state, with "constitutional carry" allowing permitless carry in some states. Some states allow for private gun sales without any background checks. Other states greatly restrict these activities. Naturally, policy makers who oppose the freedom to carry firearms have sought for many decades to impose uniform gun policy nationwide.  Federal Centralization Run Amok: The Fugitive Slave Acts  The most notorious case of using the federal government to impose nationwide uniformity is likely the Fugitive Slave Acts (passed in 1793 and 1850). Contrary to the myth that slave owners hated a strong federal government and wanted only local control, slave drivers enthusiastically and repeatedly invoked the federal fugitive slave laws. This was done in order to force Northern governments to cooperate with Southern states in kidnapping runaway slaves and returning them to their "owners." The Dred Scott decision extended federal protections of slavery even further, and the ruling allowed many slave owners to argue they could even take their slaves into nonslave states and territories, regardless of state and local laws prohibiting slavery. Many abolitionists refused to acknowledge federal prerogatives and actively opposed federal agents who attempted to enforce federal laws extending slavery beyond the slave states. Some Northern governments explicitly refused to cooperate with the Fugitive Slave Acts. So successful were these efforts to undermine federal law that South Carolina secessionists listed the failure of federal slave laws as a reason for secession in 1860. Slavery advocates were enraged by the idea that their neighbors in other states weren't being forced to help prop up the slave system.  After Roe, States Are Quickly Decentralizing American Abortion Law In all of these cases, the perceived "answer" offered by proponents of legal uniformity was to bring in the federal government to force people in state A to do the bidding of people in state B. Thanks to the overturning of Roe, however, many states are moving in exactly the opposite direction.  Some states have moved toward prohibiting abortion within their own borders. But proabortion states are also taking some key legal steps toward further decentralizing policy. Policy makers in Massachusetts have moved to protect the state's citizens from extradition to antiabortion states for abortion-related crimes. The state's governor also signed an executive order prohibiting the state's agencies "from assisting another state's investigation into a person or entity" for abortion-related activities. New York's governor has signed legislation "that shields [abortion] providers and patients from civil liability" in abortion-related claims. The message here: "Those laws in antiabortion states have no power here." Centralization Breeds Conflict This is the way the system was designed to work. People can choose to live in state A, where abortion is illegal. But should some of those people travel to state B to get an abortion, state B ought to be under no obligation to help state A enforce its laws either inside or outside the state. To demand anything more than this inevitably ends up involving the federal government to impose new obligations on every state. (This strategy of centralizing power should not be confused with trying to directly change laws within those states. It is, of course, a good thing to pressure governments to end unjust laws from within, but such efforts are totally different than calling in the federal government to end abortion by federal fiat.) As we have seen with abortion, slavery, drugs, and guns, when the feds are involved, every national election ends up being a referendum on whatever issue is deemed so important that the federal government must impose one way of doing things on everyone. This only makes national politics even more nasty. The end of Roe v. Wade may end up emphasizing the political and cultural divisions in America by forcing many Americans to recognize that the United States is not one place. It is many places. This is not a problem, however, if we relearn that rather than employ federal coercion to "solve" the world's problems, it's perhaps better to tolerate others doing things differently in other parts of the world. On the other hand, if Americans can't shake the idea that the regime must force one way of life on everyone, we can expect national political divides to grow ever more bitter.  Tyler Durden Sun, 07/03/2022 - 18:25.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJul 3rd, 2022

Live updates: Pennsylvania"s GOP Senate primary is going down to the wire

Senate seats in contention, Rep. Madison Cawthorn loses in North Carolina and a GOP face-off in Pennsylvania to run for US Senate. North Carolina GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn lost his seat in a primary on Tuesday.Saul Loeb - Pool/Getty ImagesWelcome to the Insider live blog for the May 17 primaries.Key Senate and House races remain too close to callFormer President Donald Trump poses for photos with David McCormick at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Bedminster, N.J. Mehmet Oz speaks at a town hall-style event at the Newtown Athletic Club in Newtown, Pa.AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster and AP Photo/Marc LevySeveral races are still neck-and-neck as of Wednesday morning, including the high-profile Republican Pennsylvania Senate contest, where just 0.19 percentage points separate Dr. Mehmet Oz from David McCormick with thousands of absentee ballots left to be counted. Meanwhile in the House, progressive candidates are potentially on the verge of scoring two big wins, with Jamie McLeod-Skinner on track to knock out centrist Rep. Kurt Schrader in Oregon's 5th District and progressive Summer Lee leading her main rival Steve Irwin by 446 votes in the open race for the Pittsburgh-based 12th Congressional District.  -Grace Panetta Pennsylvania remains unsettled as election night draws to a closeGREENSBURG, PA - Pennsylvania Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz joins former President Donald Trump onstage during a rally.Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty ImagesDr. Mehmet Oz and Dave McCormick remain in neck-and-neck contention for the GOP nomination for Senate in Pennsylvania with less than half a percentage point separating the two frontrunners by late Tuesday night, meaning the race may not be called until Wednesday. More votes are still left to be counted in counties were Oz has been performing well, and a ballot printing error in Lancaster County that will require workers to manually recreate and re-scan 16,000 absentee ballots over the next few days will also potentially slow down the counting if the race remains this close. -Grace Panetta Lamb reportedly concedes Pennsylvania Senate primaryConor Lamb.Brendan McDermid/ReutersRep. Conor Lamb has conceded Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate primary, Politico's Holly Otterbein reports.Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is projected to win the contest, per Decision Desk HQ. As of 11 p.m. Eastern Time, Fetterman was running ahead of Lamb by more than 32 percentage points.We still don't know who the Republican nominee is and may not find that out tonight. Either way, the general election could decide which party will control the Senate. — By Brent D. GriffithsPolls close, wrapping up an evening of primariesIdaho Gov. Brad Little.Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman/Tribune News Service via Getty ImagesPolls are closed everywhere in the country, wrapping up an evening of primaries in states all over the US. The final results will come in Idaho, which just closed its last polls, and Oregon, which votes entirely by mail. The final race that will determine former President Donald Trump's status as kingmaker in the Republican party is in Idaho. There, Incumbent Gov. Brad Little is facing a primary challenge from his own Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin, whom Trump endorsed. Oregon has an open primary for governor after the current governor, Democrat Kate Brown, is term limited out. US House seats are also up for grabs, with tensions growing between centrist and progressive Democrats in the House. Follow along to see the results of the races for gubernatorial nominations and congressional seats in Oregon, and for the governor's race in Idaho. - Kimberly Leonard Meet the man who just took down Rep. Madison CawthornChuck Edwards, a North Carolina state senator, defeated freshman GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn on Tuesday.Camila DeChalus/InsiderTake a look at this Insider profile of state Sen. Chuck Edwards, the Republican who just unseated Rep. Madison Cawthorn in North Carolina's 11th Congressional District.Senior Reporter Camila DeChalus traveled to Hendersonville and spoke with the state senator in May to learn more about the rising star in North Carolina. She found the antithesis of Cawthorn in Edwards: a candidate lacking his rival's hyperbolic bravado and a scant social media presence.When DeChalus asked about Cawthorn's plethora of recent controversies, Edwards told her that "it's obvious that he [Cawthorn] got caught up in political stardom and turned his back on the people in these mountains."He said that his "qualms with Madison Cawthorn are based on his performance and his poor attendance record in Congress."— By Madison HallBiden lauds Fetterman's Pennsylvania Senate nominationPresident Joe Biden hadn't said anything about the Pennsylvania Senate race — until John Fetterman won the Democratic nomination.AP Photo/Carolyn KasterPresident Joe Biden finally has something to say about Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate race.Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is projected to be the Democratic Party's nominee in what will be one of the nation's closest watched Senate races, Decision Desk HQ projects.Unlike his predecessor, Biden loathes to weigh in on contested party primaries. It didn't help matters that the Delawarian president who never forgets his Scranton roots encountered a race with three big names in Pennsylvania politics: Fetterman, Rep. Conor Lamb, and state-Sen. Malcolm Kenyatta.Lamb and Kenyatta were close Biden allies. Biden bestowed one of his highest compliments on Lamb, saying that the young former Marine reminded him of his son Beau Biden when Lamb's 2018 special election attracted national attention. While Kenyatta was a key Biden surrogate and was among a group of rising stars that spoke during the 2020 Democratic National Convention's keynote address."Democrats are united around John, who is a strong nominee, will run a tough race, and can win in November," Biden said in a statement.— By Brent D. GriffithsA legislative leader and TikTok star is headed to Congress from KentuckyMorgan McGarvey, Kentucky's state Senate minority leader, is a TikTok star.Timothy D. Easley/AP PhotoKentucky's state Senate minority leader Morgan McGarvey, who won the Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. John Yarmuth in the safely Democratic, Louisville-based 3rd Congressional District, will also bring some TikTok starpower to Congress. McGarvey and his colleague, Sen. Reginald Thomas, currently boast nearly 130,000 followers on the @kysenatedems account. That's where the two use TikTok trends to document their daily lives in the state legislature and the woes of being in the superminority, including a video of Thomas doing the "Rick & Morty" trend in front of the state Senate chamber that eaned 5.7 million views.McGarvey is likely to also be in the minority in Congress, but at least he can give his colleagues some TikTok pointers. -Grace Panetta Rep. Madison Cawthorn losesRep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C.House Television via APControversial GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn is projected to lose his re-election campaign in the face of fierce opposition from his fellow North Carolina Republicans.State-Sen. Chuck Edwards is projected to win the race, per Decision Desk HQ. Sen. Thom Tillis endorsed Edwards, a sign of just how much fellow elected Republicans rebelled against Cawthorn.Cawthorn courted controversy even before his election. But the 26-year-old finally hit a nerve on Capitol Hill when he suggested on a podcast that there were illicit sex and drug-filled parties in Washington. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said publicly that Cawthorn had lost his trust. Tillis came off the sidelines and pushed hard for Edwards' campaign. And the rest is now history.— Brent D. GriffithsNorth Carolina GOP Senate candidate Ted Budd and Donald Trump.Chris Seward/AP PhotoFormer President Donald Trump's endorsement of Republican Rep. Ted Budd was likely crucial in helping the two-term lawmaker clinch the GOP nomination for US Senate on Tuesday, despite a crowded field of contenders. But Budd too has been decidedly Trumpian in the types of legislation he has introduced while in Congress. In April, for example, he introduced the Build the Wall Now Act to have the federal government continue constructing the border wall between the US and Mexico that was started under Trump and that President Joe Biden paused by executive order. Budd also introduced the Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Cities Act of 2021, which would allow people to sue cities if someone unauthorized to be living in the US committed a crime against them. While in office, Trump targeted sanctuary cities that are often led by Democrats and that sheltered migrants against federal crackdowns on illegal immigration. On education, Budd introduced a bill to recreate Trump's 1776 Commission, which was disbanded under Biden. Members of the conservative commission had created a 45-page document that aimed to promote a "patriotic education," and was intended as a rebuttal to the New York Times' 1619 Project. Budd's Freedom from Regulations Act, introduced in 2021, echoed a Trump-era executive order that called for trashing two regulations every time the administration created a new one. — Kimberly LeonardClay Aiken on track to lose, Decision Desk HQ projectsAmerican Idol star Clay Aiken is headed for defeat in his race for a US House seat in North Carolina.Vince Bucci/Getty ImagesClay Aiken is currently running third in the race for the Democratic nomination for North Carolina's 4th Congressional District. State-Sen. Valerie Foushee is already projected to have won the nomination. Long-time incumbent Rep. David Price, a Democrat, previously announced his retirement after over 30 years in Congress.Aiken won his party's 2014 nomination but later lost the general election to then-Rep. Renee Ellmers. The 2003 American Idol runner-up decided to give it another go this cycle.Since American Idol, Aiken launched a private foundation and starred on Broadway in the Monty Python-inspired "Spamalot."Daily Kos Elections joked on Twitter that now it can no longer be said that Aiken finishes second in everything. Outside of elections, Aiken finished as the runner-up on 2012's edition of the Celebrity Apprentice when it was still hosted by then-future President Donald Trump.— Brent D. GriffithsDoug Mastriano, a Pennsylvania state senator, is the Republican nominee for governor.Carolyn Kaster/AP PhotoDoug Mastriano is the winner of the Republican primary in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, according to DDHQ and Insider.— Madison HallFetterman's turn in the Insider spotlightJohn Fetterman on the Senate campaign trial in May 2022.Keith Srakocic/AP PhotoCheck out this Insider profile of John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for the US Senate from Pennsylvania. In November 2020, Insider's Charles Davis interviewed Fetterman about his journey from being largely apolitical, to being elected mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, in 2005, to being branded a rising Democratic star.Fetterman told Insider that he doesn't think that Democrats can't reach Trump voters. "If we're going to reverse the fortunes of not only our party but, most importantly, communities and regions, [we need to be] reinvesting and acknowledging that these places deserve to be championed," Fetterman said."There's certainly unreachable people," he said. "I think it's people reacting to a level of authenticity or rawness. You're not going to convince me that Pennsylvania changed radically from Barack Obama to Donald Trump."— Sarah GrayMehmet Oz: Not in it for the moneyMehmet Oz would earn $174,000 if he becomes a US senator.Matt Rourke/APIf Donald Trump endorsee Mehmet Oz win's tonight's US Senate primary in Pennsylvania, then defeats the Democratic nominee in November, he'll earn a standard congressional salary, which today stands at $174,000.Not bad, no, but it's peanuts compared to what he's been making in the private sector — or perhaps pistachios, given that Oz scored a cool $125,000 for a one-day speech to the American Pistachio Growers Association in March 2020, according a federal financial disclosure Oz submitted to the Senate in April.For hosting quiz show Jeopardy! during a two-week stint in late March and early April 2021, Oz earned $268,701, records show.And that's all before you consider his former day job: Oz reported earning more than $7 million from "income derived from ownership interest in Oz Media LLL through Oz Property Holdings." He also received a $2 million salary for hosting the "Dr. Oz Show."Oz is also an active stock trader, reporting sizeable investments in companies such as Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, defense contractor Northrop Grumman, and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson, among several dozen others. — Dave LevinthalFetterman wins Pennsylvania Democratic senator nominationJohn Fetterman, left, is the Democratic nominee for the Pennsylvania US Senate seat.Keith Srakocic/AP PhotoJohn Fetterman is the winner of the Democratic primary race for Pennsylvania's US Senate seat. That's the call from Insider and DDHQ. Fetterman, currently the state's lieutenant governor, defeated Rep. Conor Lamb, Malcolm Kenyatta, and Alexandria Khalil. Fetterman is currently recovering from a recent stroke and announced on Tuesday that he had received a pacemaker implant.A pricey house race to watch near Pittsburgh: PA-12Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed Pennsylvania state Rep. Summer Lee in her bid to win the nomination for the state's 12th congressional district.Rebecca Droke/AP PhotoWith the retirement of GOP Rep. Fred Keller, this district outside of Pittsburgh in the Susquehanna Valley is a potential pickup opportunity for Democrats.It's also a race that was looking pretty stale until the past few weeks. The frontrunner, state Rep. Summer Lee, has endorsements from Emily's List and Justice Democrats. Sen. Bernie Sanders recently stumped for her and she seemed to have everything going in her favor until a ton of money started pouring into the race. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, most commonly referred to as AIPAC, has been funding ads through a new Super PAC called the United Democracy Project for Lee's opponent, Steve Irwin. Lee would be the latest in a new generation of Democrats in Washington with positions further to the left than most of the caucus, as well as more critical views of Israel. Should Irwin pull out a victory, his surge couldn't have been hurt by the AIPAC ad spree, but Lee remains the favorite. The Republican primary has been more quiet, with Michael Doyle — unrelated to retiring Rep. Mike Doyle — running unopposed.— Jake LahutPennsylvania's US Senate race is stupid expensivePennsylvania Republican Senate Candidate Mehmet OzAlexi Rosenfeld/Getty ImagesThe government of Erie, Pennsylvania, population 94,831, forecasts that it'll bring in about $95.7 million worth of revenue during 2022.Pennsylvania's US Senate race, meanwhile, is on pace to bring in twice that — maybe even more — en route to competing for the crown of the year's most expensive political race.As of April 27, the race had already attracted more than $68.3 million in contributions, according to federal records compiled by nonpartisan research organization OpenSecrets.There are two overriding reasons for this. First, both the Republican and Democratic primaries are highly competitive. They feature multiple candidates — David McCormick, Mehmet Oz and Kathy Barnette on the right, John Fetterman and Conor Lamb on the left. More candidates + more competition = more, more, more money.Second, McCormick and Oz are extremely wealthy. Both have pumped millions of dollars of their personal money into the race, with Oz alone accounting for more than $12 million, according to Federal Election Commission records. McCormick, at $11 million, isn't far behind.Tonight's winners will then have nearly six months to slug each other ahead of November's general election. National party committees and super PACs, which may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, will almost assuredly supplement the candidates' own fundraising efforts with tens of millions of more dollars.— Dave LevinthalPolls in Pennsylvania closed at 8 p.m. ET.InsiderFollow along to see the results for the Republican and Democratic  candidates for governor, the US Senate, House from the Keystone State.Madison Cawthorn's cryptic crypto play may have violated the STOCK ActMadison Cawthorn, Republican nominee for North Carolina's 11th Congressional District, speaks during the largely virtual 2020 Republican National Convention broadcast from Washington, on August 26, 2020.2020 Republican National Convention/Handout via ReutersRep. Madison Cawthorn has plenty of problems — ones involving guns, money, cocaine orgies, and a nude video, to name four.One that's flying a bit below the radar, but still serious: he may have violated a federal conflicts-of-interest law by not publicly reporting his stated purchase in a cryptocurrency named for an anti-Joe Biden slogan.Per federal law, Cawthorn had 45-days to formally disclose details about his crypto play. But as of this evening, Cawthorn had done no such thing, and his campaign and congressional office have not responded to Insider's questions as to why.Failure to properly report such financial transactions can result in a fine administered by Congress, or in extreme cases, a referral to the Department of Justice.— Dave LevinthalTed Budd wins GOP Primary for open Senate seatFormer President Donald Trump endorsed Rep. Ted Budd of North Carolina in the 2022 North Carolina Senate race.AP Photo/Chris SewardRepublican Ted Budd will face off against Democrat Cheri Beasley for a crucial open US Senate seat in North Carolina, Insider and Decision Desk HQ project. Budd is a Republican congressman who was endorsed by President Donald Trump, and easily cleared a field of GOP opponents. Beasley, the former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, is hoping to flip control of the seat currently held by retiring GOP Sen. Richard Burr.Mayoral MayhemCharlotte, NCShutterstockA Republican hasn't been the mayor of Louisville, Kentucky, for more than 50 years. Four Republican candidates are hoping to change that, including Bill Dieruf, the current mayor of Jeffersontown, a nearby suburb. The current mayor of Lexington, Kentucky's second-largest city, Linda Gorton, is running for reelection. Gorton's opponents recently chided her at a public forum over housing costs and crime rates. She countered by noting that she rose to the occasion when challenges surfaced in Lexington during her time in office, particularly during the pandemic.In Charlotte, North Carolina, Democratic Mayor Vi Alexander Lyles is vying for another term in office. Lyles became the first Black mayor in Charlotte history in 2017 after unseating the incumbent mayor. She's facing off against three other Democratic candidates tonight.You can check out and follow the three mayoral primaries here.—Madison HallJohn Fetterman gets pacemakerIn this Sept. 21, 2018 photo, former Braddock, Pa., Mayor John Fetterman speaks at a campaign rally for Pennsylvania candidates in PhiladelphiaAP Photo/Matt RourkePennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman "just completed a successful procedure to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator," his communications director, Joe Calvello, said in a statement Tuesday evening. "The procedure began at 3:15 pm, John was released at 5:56 pm, and he has been given the all-clear that it was successful. He is resting at the hospital and recovering well. John continues to improve every day, and he is still on track for a full recovery."Fetterman, who is running for the US Senate in Pennsylvania in tonight's Democratic primary, suffered a stroke last week.— Dave LevinthalResults just beginning to trickle in in KentuckyHouse Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., talks with reporters after meeting with the House Democratic Caucus and Biden administration officials to discuss progress on an infrastructure bill, at the Capitol in Washington.J. Scott Applewhite/APPolls closed in Kentucky at 6 p.m. Eastern Time, and the results are beginning to come in. See results for the Senate, House and state legislative primaries here, and results for the mayoral elections in Louisville and Lexington here.The most notable primary race of the night is the Democratic primary in Kentucky's Third District to replace retiring Democratic Rep. John YarmuthA slew of Democratic candidates are seeking the nomination for the mayor's office in Louisville to replace term-limited outgoing Mayor Greg Fischer. Incumbent Mayor Linda Gorton is also seeking reelection to the mayor's office in Lexington, Kentucky in a nonpartisan primary. Democrats love Republican primaries — for fundraisingDemocratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, DCCC Chair, at a press conference on Capitol HillBill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty ImagesThe Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is rarely immune to hyperbole or breathlessness. So it should perhaps come as little surprise how much the party's campaign arm for US House races is leveraging today's Republican Senate primary in Pennsylvania to raise cash for itself."Trump has already helped make J.D. Vance the Republican nominee in the critical Ohio Senate race. Now, he's scheming to do the same with Dr. Oz in the ultimate swing state of Pennsylvania … please understand: If Trump is able to pack Congress with his top loyalists, it could pave the way for his return to the White House," the DCCC wrote supporters.It continues: "And at this dire moment, you have two options: OPTION 1: Ignore our urgent pleas, delete this email, and watch while Trump destroys our House Majority and Democratic Trifecta with his dangerous followers. OPTION 2: Step up with a powerful grassroots gift before midnight to stop Trump's power-hungry schemes and protect our Democratic House."  — Dave LevinthalTight gubernatorial primary races in the Beaver State- Former Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, who is running for governor, poses for photos in Columbia Park in Portland, Ore., on Feb. 18, 2022. Oregon's primary elections are Tuesday, May 17, 2022.AP Photo/Sara Cline, fileDemocratic Gov. Kate Brown is finishing up her second term in office and cannot run again. After 35 straight years of having a Democrat as governor, Republicans in Oregon are hoping this is their year to regain executive power, but must figure out their nominee from a slate of 19 candidates led by former state Rep. Christine Drazan and businessman Bob Tiernan. With Brown term-limited, she leaves behind a wide-open Democratic field with 15 candidates. Two notable leaders on the Democratic ticket include Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read and former House Speaker Tina Kotek.The list of Democratic primary contenders used to be longer — former New York Times columnist Nick Kristof left his job to explore running for office in October 2021. Oregon's Supreme Court ultimately ruled in February that he couldn't be on the ballot, citing his failure to meet the three-year residency requirement to qualify.— Madison HallEmbattled Rep. Madison Cawthorn fights for a second term after a slew of scandalsU.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., waves to the crowd after he spoke before former President Donald Trump takes the stage at a rally on April 9, 2022, in Selma, NC.Chris Seward/APCawthorn catapulted into rising star status in the GOP when he was elected to Congress from North Carolina's 11th District in 2020 at age 25. But a series of ethics troubles, and explosive comments have infuriated his GOP colleagues and spurred some to openly root for his ouster, as Michael Kruse recently dug into for Politico Magazine. Our Camila DeChalus reported from Hendersonville earlier this month on Cawthorn's leading primary challenger, state Sen. Chuck Edwards, voters' mixed feelings about Cawthorn's scandals, and the former volunteers who have buyer's remorse. A split field of seven primary challengers could help Cawthorn squeak by to reelection, but he could head to a July 26 runoff if no one gets about 30% of the vote. — Grace PanettaWould you pay $1 million out-of-pocket for a US Senate seat?McCormick received more than $70 million in discretionary awards connected to a Bridgewater Associates plan.Divorce agreement between David McCormick and Amy RichardsonAs C. Ryan Barber and Adam Wren reported earlier this year, divorce documents obtained by Insider indicate that Republican US Senate candidate David McCormick could face such a situation — if he's first able to survive his Pennsylvania primary battle against Mehmet Oz and Kathy Barnette.As Barber and Wren wrote: "McCormick's divorce agreement includes a clause stipulating that he would pay his ex-wife $1 million if he voluntarily left his lucrative position at Bridgewater Associates for the 'public domain.' The agreement between McCormick and his ex-wife, Amy Richardson, defined 'public domain' as employment in 'any government entity' and required him to pay the seven-figure sum in a pair of $500,000 installments in the first two years of any full-time public sector job.Once the frontrunner, McCormick has slipped in the polls of late and could conceivably finish third. Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Oz, the longtime television show host, while Barnette has surged as a MAGA-friendly alternative to both Oz and McCormick. — Dave LevinthalOz, Barnette, and McCormick jockey in a close race in PennsylvaniaPennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Kathy Barnette speaks during a campaign rally at The Fuge in Warminster, Pennsylvania.Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty ImagesWe went to Pennsylvania earlier this month and found a lot of Trump voters who were pretty unhappy with Dr. Mehmet Oz as the former president's endorsement. Kathy Barnette has had an impressive surge late in the race, but the conservative author's background is now the subject of considerable scrutiny and has some Republicans worried she'd get beat by the Democrats should she make it to the November general election. No doubt, a victory for Barnette would be a big shock. But she's been within striking distance in all the latest polls. The candidate hoping to get a bump from undecideds is former hedge fund CEO David McCormick, who has picked up endorsements from the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.– Jake LahutRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 18th, 2022

Live updates: Rep. Madison Cawthorn dramatically loses seat as Pennsylvania and North Carolina ballots are counted

Senate seats in contention, Rep. Madison Cawthorn loses in North Carolina and a GOP face-off in Pennsylvania to run for US Senate. North Carolina GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn lost his seat in a primary on Tuesday.Saul Loeb - Pool/Getty ImagesWelcome to the Insider live blog for the May 17 primaries.Polls close, wrapping up an evening of primariesIdaho Gov. Brad Little.Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman/Tribune News Service via Getty ImagesPolls are closed everywhere in the country, wrapping up an evening of primaries in states all over the US. The final results will come in Idaho, which just closed its last polls, and Oregon, which votes entirely by mail. The final race that will determine former President Donald Trump's status as kingmaker in the Republican party is in Idaho. There, Incumbent Gov. Brad Little is facing a primary challenge from his own Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin, whom Trump endorsed. Oregon has an open primary for governor after the current governor, Democrat Kate Brown, is term limited out. US House seats are also up for grabs, with tensions growing between centrist and progressive Democrats in the House. Follow along to see the results of the races for gubernatorial nominations and congressional seats in Oregon, and for the governor's race in Idaho. - Kimberly Leonard Meet the man who just took down Rep. Madison CawthornChuck Edwards, a North Carolina state senator, defeated freshman GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn on Tuesday.Camila DeChalus/InsiderTake a look at this Insider profile of state Sen. Chuck Edwards, the Republican who just unseated Rep. Madison Cawthorn in North Carolina's 11th Congressional District.Senior Reporter Camila DeChalus traveled to Hendersonville and spoke with the state senator in May to learn more about the rising star in North Carolina. She found the antithesis of Cawthorn in Edwards: a candidate lacking his rival's hyperbolic bravado and a scant social media presence.When DeChalus asked about Cawthorn's plethora of recent controversies, Edwards told her that "it's obvious that he [Cawthorn] got caught up in political stardom and turned his back on the people in these mountains."He said that his "qualms with Madison Cawthorn are based on his performance and his poor attendance record in Congress."— By Madison HallBiden lauds Fetterman's Pennsylvania Senate nominationPresident Joe Biden hadn't said anything about the Pennsylvania Senate race — until John Fetterman won the Democratic nomination.AP Photo/Carolyn KasterPresident Joe Biden finally has something to say about Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate race.Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is projected to be the Democratic Party's nominee in what will be one of the nation's closest watched Senate races, Decision Desk HQ projects.Unlike his predecessor, Biden loathes to weigh in on contested party primaries. It didn't help matters that the Delawarian president who never forgets his Scranton roots encountered a race with three big names in Pennsylvania politics: Fetterman, Rep. Conor Lamb, and state-Sen. Malcolm Kenyatta.Lamb and Kenyatta were close Biden allies. Biden bestowed one of his highest compliments on Lamb, saying that the young former Marine reminded him of his son Beau Biden when Lamb's 2018 special election attracted national attention. While Kenyatta was a key Biden surrogate and was among a group of rising stars that spoke during the 2020 Democratic National Convention's keynote address."Democrats are united around John, who is a strong nominee, will run a tough race, and can win in November," Biden said in a statement.— By Brent D. GriffithsA legislative leader and TikTok star is headed to Congress from KentuckyMorgan McGarvey, Kentucky's state Senate minority leader, is a TikTok star.Timothy D. Easley/AP PhotoKentucky's state Senate minority leader Morgan McGarvey, who won the Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. John Yarmuth in the safely Democratic, Louisville-based 3rd Congressional District, will also bring some TikTok starpower to Congress. McGarvey and his colleague, Sen. Reginald Thomas, currently boast nearly 130,000 followers on the @kysenatedems account. That's where the two use TikTok trends to document their daily lives in the state legislature and the woes of being in the superminority, including a video of Thomas doing the "Rick & Morty" trend in front of the state Senate chamber that eaned 5.7 million views.McGarvey is likely to also be in the minority in Congress, but at least he can give his colleagues some TikTok pointers. -Grace Panetta Rep. Madison Cawthorn losesRep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C.House Television via APControversial GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn is projected to lose his re-election campaign in the face of fierce opposition from his fellow North Carolina Republicans.State-Sen. Chuck Edwards is projected to win the race, per Decision Desk HQ. Sen. Thom Tillis endorsed Edwards, a sign of just how much fellow elected Republicans rebelled against Cawthorn.Cawthorn courted controversy even before his election. But the 26-year-old finally hit a nerve on Capitol Hill when he suggested on a podcast that there were illicit sex and drug-filled parties in Washington. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said publicly that Cawthorn had lost his trust. Tillis came off the sidelines and pushed hard for Edwards' campaign. And the rest is now history.— Brent D. GriffithsNorth Carolina GOP Senate candidate Ted Budd and Donald Trump.Chris Seward/AP PhotoFormer President Donald Trump's endorsement of Republican Rep. Ted Budd was likely crucial in helping the two-term lawmaker clinch the GOP nomination for US Senate on Tuesday, despite a crowded field of contenders. But Budd too has been decidedly Trumpian in the types of legislation he has introduced while in Congress. In April, for example, he introduced the Build the Wall Now Act to have the federal government continue constructing the border wall between the US and Mexico that was started under Trump and that President Joe Biden paused by executive order. Budd also introduced the Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Cities Act of 2021, which would allow people to sue cities if someone unauthorized to be living in the US committed a crime against them. While in office, Trump targeted sanctuary cities that are often led by Democrats and that sheltered migrants against federal crackdowns on illegal immigration. On education, Budd introduced a bill to recreate Trump's 1776 Commission, which was disbanded under Biden. Members of the conservative commission had created a 45-page document that aimed to promote a "patriotic education," and was intended as a rebuttal to the New York Times' 1619 Project. Budd's Freedom from Regulations Act, introduced in 2021, echoed a Trump-era executive order that called for trashing two regulations every time the administration created a new one. — Kimberly LeonardClay Aiken on track to lose, Decision Desk HQ projectsAmerican Idol star Clay Aiken is headed for defeat in his race for a US House seat in North Carolina.Vince Bucci/Getty ImagesClay Aiken is currently running third in the race for the Democratic nomination for North Carolina's 4th Congressional District. State-Sen. Valerie Foushee is already projected to have won the nomination. Long-time incumbent Rep. David Price, a Democrat, previously announced his retirement after over 30 years in Congress.Aiken won his party's 2014 nomination but later lost the general election to then-Rep. Renee Ellmers. The 2003 American Idol runner-up decided to give it another go this cycle.Since American Idol, Aiken launched a private foundation and starred on Broadway in the Monty Python-inspired "Spamalot."Daily Kos Elections joked on Twitter that now it can no longer be said that Aiken finishes second in everything. Outside of elections, Aiken finished as the runner-up on 2012's edition of the Celebrity Apprentice when it was still hosted by then-future President Donald Trump.— Brent D. GriffithsDoug Mastriano, a Pennsylvania state senator, is the Republican nominee for governor.Carolyn Kaster/AP PhotoDoug Mastriano is the winner of the Republican primary in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, according to DDHQ and Insider.— Madison HallFetterman's turn in the Insider spotlightJohn Fetterman on the Senate campaign trial in May 2022.Keith Srakocic/AP PhotoCheck out this Insider profile of John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for the US Senate from Pennsylvania. In November 2020, Insider's Charles Davis interviewed Fetterman about his journey from being largely apolitical, to being elected mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, in 2005, to being branded a rising Democratic star.Fetterman told Insider that he doesn't think that Democrats can't reach Trump voters. "If we're going to reverse the fortunes of not only our party but, most importantly, communities and regions, [we need to be] reinvesting and acknowledging that these places deserve to be championed," Fetterman said."There's certainly unreachable people," he said. "I think it's people reacting to a level of authenticity or rawness. You're not going to convince me that Pennsylvania changed radically from Barack Obama to Donald Trump."— Sarah GrayMehmet Oz: Not in it for the moneyMehmet Oz would earn $174,000 if he becomes a US senator.Matt Rourke/APIf Donald Trump endorsee Mehmet Oz win's tonight's US Senate primary in Pennsylvania, then defeats the Democratic nominee in November, he'll earn a standard congressional salary, which today stands at $174,000.Not bad, no, but it's peanuts compared to what he's been making in the private sector — or perhaps pistachios, given that Oz scored a cool $125,000 for a one-day speech to the American Pistachio Growers Association in March 2020, according a federal financial disclosure Oz submitted to the Senate in April.For hosting quiz show Jeopardy! during a two-week stint in late March and early April 2021, Oz earned $268,701, records show.And that's all before you consider his former day job: Oz reported earning more than $7 million from "income derived from ownership interest in Oz Media LLL through Oz Property Holdings." He also received a $2 million salary for hosting the "Dr. Oz Show."Oz is also an active stock trader, reporting sizeable investments in companies such as Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, defense contractor Northrop Grumman, and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson, among several dozen others. — Dave LevinthalFetterman wins Pennsylvania Democratic senator nominationJohn Fetterman, left, is the Democratic nominee for the Pennsylvania US Senate seat.Keith Srakocic/AP PhotoJohn Fetterman is the winner of the Democratic primary race for Pennsylvania's US Senate seat. That's the call from Insider and DDHQ. Fetterman, currently the state's lieutenant governor, defeated Rep. Conor Lamb, Malcolm Kenyatta, and Alexandria Khalil. Fetterman is currently recovering from a recent stroke and announced on Tuesday that he had received a pacemaker implant.A pricey house race to watch near Pittsburgh: PA-12Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed Pennsylvania state Rep. Summer Lee in her bid to win the nomination for the state's 12th congressional district.Rebecca Droke/AP PhotoWith the retirement of GOP Rep. Fred Keller, this district outside of Pittsburgh in the Susquehanna Valley is a potential pickup opportunity for Democrats.It's also a race that was looking pretty stale until the past few weeks. The frontrunner, state Rep. Summer Lee, has endorsements from Emily's List and Justice Democrats. Sen. Bernie Sanders recently stumped for her and she seemed to have everything going in her favor until a ton of money started pouring into the race. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, most commonly referred to as AIPAC, has been funding ads through a new Super PAC called the United Democracy Project for Lee's opponent, Steve Irwin. Lee would be the latest in a new generation of Democrats in Washington with positions further to the left than most of the caucus, as well as more critical views of Israel. Should Irwin pull out a victory, his surge couldn't have been hurt by the AIPAC ad spree, but Lee remains the favorite. The Republican primary has been more quiet, with Michael Doyle — unrelated to retiring Rep. Mike Doyle — running unopposed.— Jake LahutPennsylvania's US Senate race is stupid expensivePennsylvania Republican Senate Candidate Mehmet OzAlexi Rosenfeld/Getty ImagesThe government of Erie, Pennsylvania, population 94,831, forecasts that it'll bring in about $95.7 million worth of revenue during 2022.Pennsylvania's US Senate race, meanwhile, is on pace to bring in twice that — maybe even more — en route to competing for the crown of the year's most expensive political race.As of April 27, the race had already attracted more than $68.3 million in contributions, according to federal records compiled by nonpartisan research organization OpenSecrets.There are two overriding reasons for this. First, both the Republican and Democratic primaries are highly competitive. They feature multiple candidates — David McCormick, Mehmet Oz and Kathy Barnette on the right, John Fetterman and Conor Lamb on the left. More candidates + more competition = more, more, more money.Second, McCormick and Oz are extremely wealthy. Both have pumped millions of dollars of their personal money into the race, with Oz alone accounting for more than $12 million, according to Federal Election Commission records. McCormick, at $11 million, isn't far behind.Tonight's winners will then have nearly six months to slug each other ahead of November's general election. National party committees and super PACs, which may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, will almost assuredly supplement the candidates' own fundraising efforts with tens of millions of more dollars.— Dave LevinthalPolls in Pennsylvania closed at 8 p.m. ET.InsiderFollow along to see the results for the Republican and Democratic  candidates for governor, the US Senate, House from the Keystone State.Madison Cawthorn's cryptic crypto play may have violated the STOCK ActMadison Cawthorn, Republican nominee for North Carolina's 11th Congressional District, speaks during the largely virtual 2020 Republican National Convention broadcast from Washington, on August 26, 2020.2020 Republican National Convention/Handout via ReutersRep. Madison Cawthorn has plenty of problems — ones involving guns, money, cocaine orgies, and a nude video, to name four.One that's flying a bit below the radar, but still serious: he may have violated a federal conflicts-of-interest law by not publicly reporting his stated purchase in a cryptocurrency named for an anti-Joe Biden slogan.Per federal law, Cawthorn had 45-days to formally disclose details about his crypto play. But as of this evening, Cawthorn had done no such thing, and his campaign and congressional office have not responded to Insider's questions as to why.Failure to properly report such financial transactions can result in a fine administered by Congress, or in extreme cases, a referral to the Department of Justice.— Dave LevinthalTed Budd wins GOP Primary for open Senate seatFormer President Donald Trump endorsed Rep. Ted Budd of North Carolina in the 2022 North Carolina Senate race.AP Photo/Chris SewardRepublican Ted Budd will face off against Democrat Cheri Beasley for a crucial open US Senate seat in North Carolina, Insider and Decision Desk HQ project. Budd is a Republican congressman who was endorsed by President Donald Trump, and easily cleared a field of GOP opponents. Beasley, the former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, is hoping to flip control of the seat currently held by retiring GOP Sen. Richard Burr.Mayoral MayhemCharlotte, NCShutterstockA Republican hasn't been the mayor of Louisville, Kentucky, for more than 50 years. Four Republican candidates are hoping to change that, including Bill Dieruf, the current mayor of Jeffersontown, a nearby suburb. The current mayor of Lexington, Kentucky's second-largest city, Linda Gorton, is running for reelection. Gorton's opponents recently chided her at a public forum over housing costs and crime rates. She countered by noting that she rose to the occasion when challenges surfaced in Lexington during her time in office, particularly during the pandemic.In Charlotte, North Carolina, Democratic Mayor Vi Alexander Lyles is vying for another term in office. Lyles became the first Black mayor in Charlotte history in 2017 after unseating the incumbent mayor. She's facing off against three other Democratic candidates tonight.You can check out and follow the three mayoral primaries here.—Madison HallJohn Fetterman gets pacemakerIn this Sept. 21, 2018 photo, former Braddock, Pa., Mayor John Fetterman speaks at a campaign rally for Pennsylvania candidates in PhiladelphiaAP Photo/Matt RourkePennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman "just completed a successful procedure to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator," his communications director, Joe Calvello, said in a statement Tuesday evening. "The procedure began at 3:15 pm, John was released at 5:56 pm, and he has been given the all-clear that it was successful. He is resting at the hospital and recovering well. John continues to improve every day, and he is still on track for a full recovery."Fetterman, who is running for the US Senate in Pennsylvania in tonight's Democratic primary, suffered a stroke last week.— Dave LevinthalResults just beginning to trickle in in KentuckyHouse Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., talks with reporters after meeting with the House Democratic Caucus and Biden administration officials to discuss progress on an infrastructure bill, at the Capitol in Washington.J. Scott Applewhite/APPolls closed in Kentucky at 6 p.m. Eastern Time, and the results are beginning to come in. See results for the Senate, House and state legislative primaries here, and results for the mayoral elections in Louisville and Lexington here.The most notable primary race of the night is the Democratic primary in Kentucky's Third District to replace retiring Democratic Rep. John YarmuthA slew of Democratic candidates are seeking the nomination for the mayor's office in Louisville to replace term-limited outgoing Mayor Greg Fischer. Incumbent Mayor Linda Gorton is also seeking reelection to the mayor's office in Lexington, Kentucky in a nonpartisan primary. Democrats love Republican primaries — for fundraisingDemocratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, DCCC Chair, at a press conference on Capitol HillBill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty ImagesThe Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is rarely immune to hyperbole or breathlessness. So it should perhaps come as little surprise how much the party's campaign arm for US House races is leveraging today's Republican Senate primary in Pennsylvania to raise cash for itself."Trump has already helped make J.D. Vance the Republican nominee in the critical Ohio Senate race. Now, he's scheming to do the same with Dr. Oz in the ultimate swing state of Pennsylvania … please understand: If Trump is able to pack Congress with his top loyalists, it could pave the way for his return to the White House," the DCCC wrote supporters.It continues: "And at this dire moment, you have two options: OPTION 1: Ignore our urgent pleas, delete this email, and watch while Trump destroys our House Majority and Democratic Trifecta with his dangerous followers. OPTION 2: Step up with a powerful grassroots gift before midnight to stop Trump's power-hungry schemes and protect our Democratic House."  — Dave LevinthalTight gubernatorial primary races in the Beaver State- Former Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, who is running for governor, poses for photos in Columbia Park in Portland, Ore., on Feb. 18, 2022. Oregon's primary elections are Tuesday, May 17, 2022.AP Photo/Sara Cline, fileDemocratic Gov. Kate Brown is finishing up her second term in office and cannot run again. After 35 straight years of having a Democrat as governor, Republicans in Oregon are hoping this is their year to regain executive power, but must figure out their nominee from a slate of 19 candidates led by former state Rep. Christine Drazan and businessman Bob Tiernan. With Brown term-limited, she leaves behind a wide-open Democratic field with 15 candidates. Two notable leaders on the Democratic ticket include Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read and former House Speaker Tina Kotek.The list of Democratic primary contenders used to be longer — former New York Times columnist Nick Kristof left his job to explore running for office in October 2021. Oregon's Supreme Court ultimately ruled in February that he couldn't be on the ballot, citing his failure to meet the three-year residency requirement to qualify.— Madison HallEmbattled Rep. Madison Cawthorn fights for a second term after a slew of scandalsU.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., waves to the crowd after he spoke before former President Donald Trump takes the stage at a rally on April 9, 2022, in Selma, NC.Chris Seward/APCawthorn catapulted into rising star status in the GOP when he was elected to Congress from North Carolina's 11th District in 2020 at age 25. But a series of ethics troubles, and explosive comments have infuriated his GOP colleagues and spurred some to openly root for his ouster, as Michael Kruse recently dug into for Politico Magazine. Our Camila DeChalus reported from Hendersonville earlier this month on Cawthorn's leading primary challenger, state Sen. Chuck Edwards, voters' mixed feelings about Cawthorn's scandals, and the former volunteers who have buyer's remorse. A split field of seven primary challengers could help Cawthorn squeak by to reelection, but he could head to a July 26 runoff if no one gets about 30% of the vote. — Grace PanettaWould you pay $1 million out-of-pocket for a US Senate seat?McCormick received more than $70 million in discretionary awards connected to a Bridgewater Associates plan.Divorce agreement between David McCormick and Amy RichardsonAs C. Ryan Barber and Adam Wren reported earlier this year, divorce documents obtained by Insider indicate that Republican US Senate candidate David McCormick could face such a situation — if he's first able to survive his Pennsylvania primary battle against Mehmet Oz and Kathy Barnette.As Barber and Wren wrote: "McCormick's divorce agreement includes a clause stipulating that he would pay his ex-wife $1 million if he voluntarily left his lucrative position at Bridgewater Associates for the 'public domain.' The agreement between McCormick and his ex-wife, Amy Richardson, defined 'public domain' as employment in 'any government entity' and required him to pay the seven-figure sum in a pair of $500,000 installments in the first two years of any full-time public sector job.Once the frontrunner, McCormick has slipped in the polls of late and could conceivably finish third. Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Oz, the longtime television show host, while Barnette has surged as a MAGA-friendly alternative to both Oz and McCormick. — Dave LevinthalOz, Barnette, and McCormick jockey in a close race in PennsylvaniaPennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Kathy Barnette speaks during a campaign rally at The Fuge in Warminster, Pennsylvania.Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty ImagesWe went to Pennsylvania earlier this month and found a lot of Trump voters who were pretty unhappy with Dr. Mehmet Oz as the former president's endorsement. Kathy Barnette has had an impressive surge late in the race, but the conservative author's background is now the subject of considerable scrutiny and has some Republicans worried she'd get beat by the Democrats should she make it to the November general election. No doubt, a victory for Barnette would be a big shock. But she's been within striking distance in all the latest polls. The candidate hoping to get a bump from undecideds is former hedge fund CEO David McCormick, who has picked up endorsements from the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.– Jake LahutRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 17th, 2022

When The World Changed – Part II

This is part two and three of a multi-part series on When The World Changed. See Part I here. Universal Incomes And Social Credits John, understandably, is deeply upset with himself. His career has evaporated in front of him, and now he faces a bleak future. Of course, he should have seen it coming. He […] This is part two and three of a multi-part series on When The World Changed. See Part I here. Universal Incomes And Social Credits John, understandably, is deeply upset with himself. His career has evaporated in front of him, and now he faces a bleak future. Of course, he should have seen it coming. He did see it coming. He saw all the signs around him but failed to act soon enough. When he first went to university, activist groups were calling for radical social reform. Among their demands was the need for a universal income and a social credit system. According to them, they foresaw that artificial intelligence and robots would decimate the labour market. They predicted the polarisation of the labour market. This meant that a few elites would be employed in research and development work, because computers weren’t capable of performing their jobs. The only other employment would be in low-level jobs not worth automating. The rest of us would be out of work. Work could only be found on the extremes, or opposite poles of the labour market. The huge unemployed masses would need an income. A universal income would be paid to all adults to meet their needs. However, income is only part of the employment issue. We work to earn, but we also work to provide purpose and meaning to our life. Work gives us a sense of pride in ourselves. Without providing for this, we have a social problem on our hands as big as the lack of income. Hence the idea of the social credit system. The system encourages people to seek opportunities to contribute to their community by providing their time and skills to address problems or opportunities within their community. Social credit schemes existed in the early ’20s. People or groups would post their requirements online, to which somebody would respond and earn social credits to complete the task. The idea was to upscale this and have it managed by a government body. Social credits could then be bartered or exchange for money. People could augment their universal income with these social credits. Among the radicals proposing universal incomes and social credits, a school of thought suggested the government manage all payments to its citizens. If somebody were fortunate to be employed, their employer would pay their salary to the government. The government would then pay the worker their universal income, plus their salary, after tax deductions. Salaries would be lower because the universal income comprises part of it. For those unemployed but earning social credits, these credits would be paid to the government as well. The government would convert these into a monetary value and pay them to the individual less any tax deductions. Some believed it would be fairer, than a barter system. No matter how the system was supposed to work, it would have provided a livable income, given purpose, meaning and pride back to people whose lives were ruined through the decimation of the labour market. Equally important, the social credit system would have focused the efforts of the many unemployed on building “common good.” A society’s strength is gauged by how well it looks after common interests or the common good. Unfortunately, since the 1970s, we placed self-interest ahead of common good. As a result of this self-interest, we have destroyed the planet’s ecosystem and brought about unimaginable social turmoil. Detractors of the universal income scheme said we could not afford it, which is nonsense. Look what we’ve ended up with. They also said that with every technological advancement, rather than lose jobs, we created new ones, so there’s no need to implement the scheme. The vast difference with previous advances was that the technology was not intended to replace humans but enhance what humans did. Now we know robots have greater dexterity, strength, speed and endurance than humans. We also know that AI has advanced to such a level they far outperform the human brain, and they collaborate far better than humans. We can’t compete. What about ASI – Artificial Super Intelligence? Today we know computers are far more creative than we are in virtually every field; composing music, writing, art, designing buildings, and rockets, the list is endless. Right now, researchers are losing their jobs – obsolete and hopelessly inefficient. So, what new jobs did they think we could do? Clean and polish the computers. Robots do that better at this than us. What a disaster! John heard these “radical” voices, but choose to ignore them. However, deep down, he knew they made sense, but he didn’t want to be seen siding with radical thinkers. In any event, he will have retired or been close to retirement when the changes they predicted occurred. Therefore, not his problem. Unfortunately, for John, his chickens have come home to roost early, and he and his young family will now pay the price. He has no Universal Income or Social Credit Scheme to fall back on. I don’t know what future awaits him, apart from a bleak one. Some may say my condemnation of John is harsh. “What can one man do against powerful forces hellbent on putting profit ahead of the community?” The answer is – stand-up and fight for what you know is right. Your voice will merger with others. Soon that one voice becomes millions, and millions of voices bring about change. It all starts by taking a stand, not remaining silent. Believing it’s somebody else’s problem, is the problem. Of course, there we numerous other events and incidents which conveyed the same message as the “radical” university group. The only thing the group got wrong was their timing. They underestimated the speed of change. Change accelerates change, so it’s challenging to predict the timing of change precisely. They could not have foreseen the massive changes made in the mid to late ’20s. One of the biggest milestones reached early in the ’20s was the mass introduction of autonomous vehicles. This decimated the labour market. A large portion of the population worldwide was employed as drivers. Over a relatively short time, most lost their jobs. This brought to the fore the evils of automation, which had silently encroached on the labour market for many years. This encroachment had seen millions of productive individuals sidelined, no longer part of the employment market. The social impact of this was huge but generally kept quiet by the wealthy elite, who benefited from this automation. However, the huge job losses created through autonomous vehicles were on a scale they could not hide. Following swiftly on the heels of autonomous vehicles was the explosion in blockchain and distributed ledger technology. In essence, it introduced a super-secure method of storing, authenticating, and protecting data, which revolutionised many aspects in business transactions. This resulted in the loss of tens of millions of white-collar jobs, particularly in sectors that had previously acted as “trusted agents”, such as brokers. These tectonic changes set in motion trends that saw the decline in marriage and increased single-parent families. Men could no longer commit to marriage and buying a house, as they had no work prospects. Families are at the centre of a stable society, so this break-up of the family saw the start of the collapse of our society. An increase in drug and alcohol abuse followed, as well as gambling. These are the consequences of desperate people turning to illusive solutions, leading to their accelerated downfall. The break-up of the family and increased anti-social activities, as a result of no work, was the toxic cocktail tearing the fabric of society apart. When people lose access to legal work, they are driven to illegal opportunities. When there are so many without work, crime, in every shape and form, explodes. We have seen the proliferation of illegal micro drug and alcohol producers. These producers put just about any crap they can lay their hands on into their toxic brews. This just compounded our social and economic woes. When we thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did. The foundation of this problem is that we are a society who put market needs before those of people. We falsely believed our purpose was to serve the markets when markets are supposed to serve the needs of the people. This false vision was promoted by the wealthy elite because the market serves them. The economy, like democracy, is supposed to serve the people. Unfortunately, we lost our way in the 1970s with the introduction of “free-market” thinking; making markets our master. The signs of social decay were more than apparent in the early ’20s, for those who cared, and were concerned enough to look for it. By the mid-’20s autonomous vehicles and blockchains had pushed the problem into your face; something you could no longer ignore, even if you tried. You would have thought that such radical change and coverage of the problems would lead to economic and social reform. They did not. The “evils of social democracy,” such as a Universal Income, and Social Credits, were pushed harder. At the same time, the merits of free-market as our “saviour” were expounded even harder. How sick and twisted are we? However, the real sickness was the complacent attitude of the masses, who were being destroyed by free-market thinking. The smell of revolution should have been in the air. But it wasn’t. Part III As an intern, John came face-to-face with the consequences of a shrinking labour market and its social consequences. On the A&E wards, the increased incidents of violence fuelled by an upsurge in broken families, aided and abetted by drug and alcohol abuse, had soared to new all-time highs. Self-harm, attempted suicides and suicides also reached new, astronomical heights. All around him, the signs of a broken society were evident. He read the daily news feeds on his phone. He knew of the adverse effects autonomous vehicles and blockchains were having on the labour market, economy and society. He did nothing. He’s only a medical doctor. He was thankful when he received a posting to a rural surgery. Hopefully, he could close his eyes, and all these problems would disappear. Perhaps the authorities would sort them out – that’s their job. Of course, this was all wishful thinking. He knew nothing was being done, and the same problems would be felt everywhere. Rural Britain could not escape change of this magnitude. When the vast majority lose their jobs, the economy shrinks. This shrinking affects other businesses who either close or reduce staff. The downward cycle accelerates. Many small businesses go to the wall early on. This included farmers. Being self-employed during an economic downturn causes untold stress on its owners. As a result, new business start-ups had almost ceased. The vital supply of new business blood had dried up. John faced the same problems in his rural environment as that in the city. Hardship and misery abounded. It even affected him personally. His brother-in-law ran a successful restaurant. He gave up his profession as an architect because of the encroachment of AI. The role of the architect was being replaced by software. He didn’t see much future for himself in his profession, and he wanted to pursue his dream of running his own restaurant. In the beginning, things went well, but then slowly, the market started shrinking. There were fewer and fewer employed people who could afford to eat out. It soon got to the point the business started losing money. He closed it down and tried to get back into architecture, but with no success. He’s been unemployed for some time now, with no prospects for the future. He has no money. John and his wife help him and his family when they can, but they don’t have a lot to spare either. John had got to the point of telling him he can no longer support him, as he has done in the past. The reason being his parents require additional support as their state pension has been severely cut and their savings eroded, as investments under-perform. The economy has shrunk so significantly now that unemployment is sitting (officially) at 68%. Most believe it to be much higher. The problem with AI and automation is that computers and robots don’t buy groceries, eat out, buy clothes, travel, or go on holiday. Not as much money circulates in the economy anymore. John’s first priority has to be with his immediate family, so he was about to break the bad news to his brother-in-law. Hopefully, he would understand. But having said that, his brother-in-law used to joke, “at least you’ve got a job for life.” How wrong he was. Now the only breadwinner in the wider family is in the same boat as everybody else, except John, has a lot more debt. They will lose everything: their home, car, furniture. Possibly, the shirt on his back. Here’s the problem I face. On the one hand, I have no hesitation in condemning John’s lack of action. On the other, I feel sorry for him and believe there must be something I’m missing. What stops an intelligent, caring individual from taking timely action? If he had the hindsight I now write with; I’m sure he would have been actively involved in introducing social and economic reform. I’m convinced he would have become involved during his early university days. He would not have left himself, and his family unprotected from this nightmare. But he didn’t. I must be missing something. John is an intelligent person. He is also a caring person. Despite being fully aware of the problems and possible solutions, he did nothing to bring about change. Why? He seemed to think it was somebody else who would have to fix the problems. This doesn’t make sense to me. As a result, I’m finding it difficult to feel any sympathy for him, despite the bleak future he faces. He knew, and he did nothing, so he’s equally responsible as those who mercilessly decimated the labour market, knowingly causing social and economic havoc. In legal terms, that’s referred to as “an accessory after the facts,” making him as guilty as those who committed the “crime” of decimating the labour market and economy. It would appear that John believed he lived in a bubble. He must have thought that as long as his bubble remained secure, he and his family would be safe. All he need do was maintain the bubble, and his future was assured. If he knew that bubble would burst only sixteen years from him entering university, he would have fought tooth and nail for social and economic reform. Clearly, John thought his bubble would never burst, or only when he had retired. As soon as the U-BEscopic was introduced, he should have seen it meant the beginning of the end. Perhaps he did, but realised he had left his disagreement with the state of the economy too late. However, if that were true, then he would not have reacted in the way he did – surprised and horrified, when he learnt he had lost his job. So why do intelligent people like John and you, live in a bubble? I include you as well because had you also taken action, in the early 20’s we would not be facing the crisis of losing our last secure job, with no social or economic support in place. If you did respond, you probably left it too late. Either way, nothing has happened and we’re in a real pickle now. The “bubble syndrome” affects most, if not all the rich elite. They believe their wealth will protect them in their bubble. In the past, this may have been true. However, by changing our circumstances so radically, this has changed everything. People who made a fortune from AI and robotics are now in the process of losing it all. Without the purchasing power of the masses, we have set off a downward economic cycle which doesn’t seem to be stopping. Like John, their bubble has burst. It’s easy to be tolerant or unconcerned about matters which are unlikely to affect you. You tolerate mass job losses or unfair labour practices because they won’t affect you, or perhaps even benefit you. You tolerate or even support lenient immigration policies because the consequences are unlikely to affect you. You pay little attention to the suffering of others caused through economic downturn and their concomitant social problems because they don’t affect you. It would be an entirely different story if they affected you directly and seriously. When something is patently wrong and adversely affecting the majority of your fellow citizens, I believe you are duty-bound to take action, even while you remain unaffected. Updated on Apr 11, 2022, 5:52 pm (function() { var sc = document.createElement("script"); sc.type = "text/javascript"; sc.async = true;sc.src = "//mixi.media/data/js/95481.js"; sc.charset = "utf-8";var s = document.getElementsByTagName("script")[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(sc, s); }()); window._F20 = window._F20 || []; _F20.push({container: 'F20WidgetContainer', placement: '', count: 3}); _F20.push({finish: true});.....»»

Category: blogSource: valuewalkApr 12th, 2022

The Man Behind Ethereum Is Worried About Crypto’s Future

In a few minutes, electronic music will start pulsing, stuffed animals will be flung through the air, women will emerge spinning Technicolor hula hoops, and a mechanical bull will rev into action, bucking off one delighted rider after another. It’s the closing party of ETHDenver, a weeklong cryptocurrency conference dedicated to the blockchain Ethereum. Lines… In a few minutes, electronic music will start pulsing, stuffed animals will be flung through the air, women will emerge spinning Technicolor hula hoops, and a mechanical bull will rev into action, bucking off one delighted rider after another. It’s the closing party of ETHDenver, a weeklong cryptocurrency conference dedicated to the blockchain Ethereum. Lines have stretched around the block for days. Now, on this Sunday night in February, the giddy energy is peaking. But as the crowd pushes inside, a wiry man with elfin features is sprinting out of the venue, past astonished selfie takers and venture capitalists. Some call out, imploring him to stay; others even chase him down the street, on foot and on scooters. Yet the man outruns them all, disappearing into the privacy of his hotel lobby, alone. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Vitalik Buterin, the most influential person in crypto, didn’t come to Denver to party. He doesn’t drink or particularly enjoy crowds. Not that there isn’t plenty for the 28-year-old creator of Ethereum to celebrate. Nine years ago, Buterin dreamed up Ethereum as a way to leverage the blockchain technology underlying Bitcoin for all sorts of uses beyond currency. Since then, it has emerged as the bedrock layer of what advocates say will be a new, open-source, decentralized internet. Ether, the platform’s native currency, has become the second biggest cryptocurrency behind Bitcoin, powering a trillion-dollar ecosystem that rivals Visa in terms of the money it moves. Ethereum has brought thousands of unbanked people around the world into financial systems, allowed capital to flow unencumbered across borders, and provided the infrastructure for entrepreneurs to build all sorts of new products, from payment systems to prediction markets, digital swap meets to medical-research hubs. Photograph by Benjamin Rasmussen for TIME But even as crypto has soared in value and volume, Buterin has watched the world he created evolve with a mixture of pride and dread. Ethereum has made a handful of white men unfathomably rich, pumped pollutants into the air, and emerged as a vehicle for tax evasion, money laundering, and mind-boggling scams. “Crypto itself has a lot of dystopian potential if implemented wrong,” the Russian-born Canadian explains the morning after the party in an 80-minute interview in his hotel room. Buterin worries about the dangers to overeager investors, the soaring transaction fees, and the shameless displays of wealth that have come to dominate public perception of crypto. “The peril is you have these $3 million monkeys and it becomes a different kind of gambling,” he says, referring to the Bored Ape Yacht Club, an überpopular NFT collection of garish primate cartoons that has become a digital-age status symbol for millionaires including Jimmy Fallon and Paris Hilton, and which have traded for more than $1 million a pop. “There definitely are lots of people that are just buying yachts and Lambos.” Read More: Politicians Show Their Increasing Interest In Crypto at ETHDenver 2022 Buterin hopes Ethereum will become the launchpad for all sorts of sociopolitical experimentation: fairer voting systems, urban planning, universal basic income, public-works projects. Above all, he wants the platform to be a counterweight to authoritarian governments and to upend Silicon Valley’s stranglehold over our digital lives. But he acknowledges that his vision for the transformative power of Ethereum is at risk of being overtaken by greed. And so he has reluctantly begun to take on a bigger public role in shaping its future. “If we don’t exercise our voice, the only things that get built are the things that are immediately profitable,” he says, reedy voice rising and falling as he fidgets his hands and sticks his toes between the cushions of a lumpy gray couch. “And those are often far from what’s actually the best for the world.” The irony is that despite all of Buterin’s cachet, he may not have the ability to prevent Ethereum from veering off course. That’s because he designed it as a decentralized platform, responsive not only to his own vision but also to the will of its builders, investors, and ever sprawling community. Buterin is not the formal leader of Ethereum. And he fundamentally rejects the idea that anyone should hold unilateral power over its future. Benjamin Rasmussen for TIMEButerin dons Shiba Inu pajama pants onstage at ETHDenver Which has left Buterin reliant on the limited tools of soft power: writing blog posts, giving interviews, conducting research, speaking at conferences where many attendees just want to bask in the glow of their newfound riches. “I’ve been yelling a lot, and sometimes that yelling does feel like howling into the wind,” he says, his eyes darting across the room. Whether or not his approach works (and how much sway Buterin has over his own brainchild) may be the difference between a future in which Ethereum becomes the basis of a new era of digital life, and one in which it’s just another instrument of financial speculation—credit-default swaps with a utopian patina. Three days after the music stops at ETHDenver, Buterin’s attention turns across the world, back to the region where he was born. In the war launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin, cryptocurrency almost immediately became a tool of Ukrainian resistance. More than $100 million in crypto was raised in the invasion’s first three weeks for the Ukrainian government and NGOs. Cryptocurrency has also provided a lifeline for some fleeing Ukrainians whose banks are inaccessible. At the same time, regulators worry that it will be used by Russian oligarchs to evade sanctions. Buterin has sprung into action too, matching hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants toward relief efforts and publicly lambasting Putin’s decision to invade. “One silver lining of the situation in the last three weeks is that it has reminded a lot of people in the crypto space that ultimately the goal of crypto is not to play games with million-dollar pictures of monkeys, it’s to do things that accomplish meaningful effects in the real world,” Buterin wrote in an email to TIME on March 14. His outspoken advocacy marks a change for a leader who has been slow to find his political voice. “One of the decisions I made in 2022 is to try to be more risk-taking and less neutral,” Buterin says. “I would rather Ethereum offend some people than turn into something that stands for nothing.” The war is personal to Buterin, who has both Russian and Ukrainian ancestry. He was born outside Moscow in 1994 to two computer scientists, Dmitry Buterin and Natalia Ameline, a few years after the fall of the Soviet Union. Monetary and social systems had collapsed; his mother’s parents lost their life savings amid rising inflation. “Growing up in the USSR, I didn’t realize most of the stuff I’d been told in school that was good, like communism, was all propaganda,” explains Dmitry. “So I wanted Vitalik to question conventions and beliefs, and he grew up very independent as a thinker.” The family initially lived in a university dorm room with a shared bathroom. There were no disposable diapers available, so his parents washed his by hand. Vitalik grew up with a turbulent, teeming mind. Dmitry says Vitalik learned how to read before he could sleep through the night, and was slow to form sentences compared with his peers. “Because his mind was going so fast,” Dmitry recalls, “it was actually hard for him to express himself verbally for some time.” Instead, Vitalik gravitated to the clarity of numbers. At 4, he inherited his parents’ old IBM computer and started playing around with Excel spreadsheets. At 7, he could recite more than a hundred digits of pi, and would shout out math equations to pass the time. By 12, he was coding inside Microsoft Office Suite. The precocious child’s isolation from his peers had been exacerbated by a move to Toronto in 2000, the same year Putin was first elected. His father characterizes Vitalik’s Canadian upbringing as “lucky and naive.” Vitalik himself uses the words “lonely and disconnected.” Courtesy Dmitry ButerinButerin on his IBM In 2011, Dmitry introduced Vitalik to Bitcoin, which had been created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. After seeing the collapse of financial systems in both Russia and the U.S., Dmitry was intrigued by the idea of an alternative global money source that was uncontrolled by authorities. Vitalik soon began writing articles exploring the new technology for the magazine Bitcoin Weekly, for which he earned 5 bitcoins a pop (back then, some $4; today, it would be worth about $200,000). Even as a teenager, Vitalik Buterin proved to be a pithy writer, able to articulate complex ideas about cryptocurrency and its underlying technology in clear prose. At 18, he co-founded Bitcoin Magazine and became its lead writer, earning a following both in Toronto and abroad. “A lot of people think of him as a typical techie engineer,” says Nathan Schneider, a media-studies professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who first interviewed Buterin in 2014. “But a core of his practice even more so is observation and writing—and that helped him see a cohesive vision that others weren’t seeing yet.” As Buterin learned more about the blockchain technology on which Bitcoin was built, he began to believe using it purely for currency was a waste. The blockchain, he thought, could serve as an efficient method for securing all sorts of assets: web applications, organizations, financial derivatives, nonpredatory loan programs, even wills. Each of these could be operated by “smart contracts,” code that could be programmed to carry out transactions without the need for intermediaries. A decentralized version of the rideshare industry, for example, could be built to send money directly from passengers to drivers, without Uber swiping a cut of the proceeds. Read the rest of Buterin’s interview in TIME’s newsletter Into the Metaverse. Subscribe for a weekly guide to the future of the Internet. You can find past issues of the newsletter here. In 2013, Buterin dropped out of college and wrote a 36-page white paper laying out his vision for Ethereum: a new open-source blockchain on which programmers could build any sort of application they wished. (Buterin swiped the name from a Wikipedia list of elements from science fiction.) He sent it to friends in the Bitcoin community, who passed it around. Soon a handful of programmers and businessmen around the world sought out Buterin in hopes of helping him bring it to life. Within months, a group of eight men who would become known as Ethereum’s founders were sharing a three-story Airbnb in Switzerland, writing code and wooing investors. While some of the other founders mixed work and play—watching Game of Thrones, persuading friends to bring over beer in exchange for Ether IOUs—Buterin mostly kept to himself, coding away on his laptop, according to Laura Shin’s recent book about the history of Ethereum, The Cryptopians. Over time, it became apparent that the group had very different plans for the nascent technology. Buterin wanted a decentralized open platform on which anyone could build anything. Others wanted to use the technology to create a business. One idea was to build the crypto equivalent to Google, in which Ethereum would use customer data to sell targeted ads. The men also squabbled over power and titles. One co-founder, Charles Hoskinson, appointed himself CEO—a designation that was of no interest to Buterin, who joked his title would be C-3PO, after the droid from Star Wars. The ensuing conflicts left Buterin with culture shock. In the space of a few months, he had gone from a cloistered life of writing code and technical articles to a that of a decisionmaker grappling with bloated egos and power struggles. His vision for Ethereum hung in the balance. “The biggest divide was definitely that a lot of these people cared about making money. For me, that was totally not my goal,” says Buterin, whose net worth is at least $800 million, according to public records on the blockchain whose accuracy was confirmed by a spokesperson. “There were even times at the beginning where I was negotiating down the percentages of the Ether distribution that both myself and the other top-level founders would get, in order to be more egalitarian. That did make them upset.” TIME Buterin says the other founders tried to take advantage of his naiveté to push through their own ideas about how Ethereum should run. “People used my fear of regulators against me,” he recalls, “saying that we should have a for-profit entity because it’s so much simpler legally than making a nonprofit.” As tensions rose, the group implored Buterin to make a decision. In June 2014, he asked Hoskinson and Amir Chetrit, two co-founders who were pushing Ethereum to become a business, to leave the group. He then set in motion the creation of the Ethereum Foundation (EF), a nonprofit established to safeguard Ethereum’s infrastructure and fund research and development projects. One by one, all the other founders peeled off over the next few years to pursue their own projects, either in tandem with Ethereum or as direct competitors. Some of them remain critical of Buterin’s approach. “In the dichotomy between centralization and anarchy, Ethereum seems to be going toward anarchy,” says Hoskinson, who now leads his own blockchain, Cardano. “We think there’s a middle ground to create some sort of blockchain-based governance system.” With the founders splintered, Buterin emerged as Ethereum’s philosophical leader. He had a seat on the EF board and the clout to shape industry trends and move markets with his public pronouncements. He even became known as “V God” in China. But he didn’t exactly step into the power vacuum. “He’s not good at bossing people around,” says Aya Miyaguchi, the executive director of the EF. “From a social-navigation perspective, he was immature. He’s probably still conflict-averse,” says Danny Ryan, a lead researcher at the EF. Buterin calls his struggle to inhabit the role of an organizational leader “my curse for the first few years at Ethereum.” It’s not hard to see why. Buterin still does not present stereotypical leadership qualities when you meet him. He sniffles and stutters through his sentences, walks stiffly, and struggles to hold eye contact. He puts almost no effort into his clothing, mostly wearing Uniqlo tees or garments gifted to him by friends. His disheveled appearance has made him an easy target on social media: he recently shared insults from online hecklers who said he looked like a “Bond villain” or an “alien crackhead.” Yet almost everyone who has a full conversation with Buterin comes away starry-eyed. Buterin is wryly funny and almost wholly devoid of pretension or ego. He’s an unabashed geek whose eyes spark when he alights upon one of his favorite concepts, whether it be quadratic voting or the governance system futarchy. Just as Ethereum is designed to be an everything machine, Buterin is an everything thinker, fluent in disciplines ranging from sociological theory to advanced calculus to land-tax history. (He’s currently using Duolingo to learn his fifth and sixth languages.) He doesn’t talk down to people, and he eschews a security detail. “An emotional part of me says that once you start going down that way, professionalizing is just another word for losing your soul,” he says. Benjamin Rasmussen for TIMEButerin, seen through a monitor at ETHDenver Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit and a major crypto investor, says being around Buterin gives him “a similar vibe to when I first got to know Sir Tim Berners-Lee,” the inventor of the World Wide Web. “He’s very thoughtful and unassuming,” Ohanian says, “and he’s giving the world some of the most powerful Legos it’s ever seen.” For years, Buterin has been grappling with how much power to exercise in Ethereum’s decentralized ecosystem. The first major test came in 2016, when a newly created Ethereum-based fundraising body called the DAO was hacked for $60 million, which amounted at the time to more than 4% of all Ether in circulation. The hack tested the crypto community’s values: if they truly believed no central authority should override the code governing smart contracts, then thousands of investors would simply have to eat the loss—which could, in turn, encourage more hackers. On the other hand, if Buterin chose to reverse the hack using a maneuver called a hard fork, he would be wielding the same kind of central authority as the financial systems he sought to replace. Buterin took a middle ground. He consulted with other Ethereum leaders, wrote blog posts advocating for the hard fork, and watched as the community voted overwhelmingly in favor of that option via forums and petitions. When Ethereum developers created the fork, users and miners had the option to stick with the hacked version of the blockchain. But they overwhelmingly chose the forked version, and Ethereum quickly recovered in value. To Buterin, the DAO hack epitomized the promise of a decentralized approach to governance. “Leadership has to rely much more on soft power and less on hard power, so leaders have to actually take into account the feelings of the community and treat them with respect,” he says. “Leadership positions aren’t fixed, so if leaders stop performing, the world forgets about them. And the converse is that it’s very easy for new leaders to rise up.” Over the past few years, countless leaders have risen up in Ethereum, building all kinds of products, tokens, and subcultures. There was the ICO boom of 2017, in which venture capitalists raised billions of dollars for blockchain projects. There was DeFi summer in 2020, in which new trading mechanisms and derivative structures sent money whizzing around the world at hyperspeed. And there was last year’s explosion of NFTs: tradeable digital goods, like profile pictures, art collections, and sports cards, that skyrocketed in value. Skeptics have derided the utility of NFTs, in which billion-dollar economies have been built upon the perceived digital ownership of simple images that can easily be copied and pasted. But they have rapidly become one of the most utilized components of the Ethereum ecosystem. In January, the NFT trading platform OpenSea hit a record $5 billion in monthly sales. Benjamin Rasmussen for TIMEConference­goers line up to ask Buterin questions after his keynote Buterin didn’t predict the rise of NFTs, and has watched the phenomenon with a mixture of interest and anxiety. On one hand, they have helped to turbocharge the price of Ether, which has increased more than tenfold in value over the past two years. (Disclosure: I own less than $1,300 worth of Ether, which I purchased in 2021.) But their volume has overwhelmed the network, leading to a steep rise in congestion fees, in which, for instance, bidders trying to secure a rare NFT pay hundreds of dollars extra to make sure their transactions are expedited. Read More: NFT Art Collectors Are Playing a Risky Game—And Winning The fees have undermined some of Buterin’s favorite projects on the blockchain. Take Proof of Humanity, which awards a universal basic income—currently about $40 per month—to anyone who signs up. Depending on the week, the network’s congestion fees can make pulling money out of your wallet to pay for basic needs prohibitively expensive. “With fees being the way they are today,” Buterin says, “it really gets to the point where the financial derivatives and the gambley stuff start pricing out some of the cool stuff.” Inequities have crept into crypto in other ways, including a stark lack of gender and racial diversity. “It hasn’t been among the things I’ve put a lot of intellectual effort into,” Buterin admits of gender parity. “The ecosystem does need to improve there.” He’s scornful of the dominance of coin voting, a voting process for DAOs that Buterin feels is just a new version of plutocracy, one in which wealthy venture capitalists can make self-interested decisions with little resistance. “It’s become a de facto standard, which is a dystopia I’ve been seeing unfolding over the last few years,” he says. These problems have sparked a backlash both inside and outside the blockchain community. As crypto rockets toward the mainstream, its esoteric jargon, idiosyncratic culture, and financial excesses have been met with widespread disdain. Meanwhile, frustrated users are decamping to newer blockchains like Solana and BNB Chain, driven by the prospect of lower transaction fees, alternative building tools, or different philosophical values. Buterin understands why people are moving away from Ethereum. Unlike virtually any other leader in a trillion-dollar industry, he says he’s fine with it—especially given that Ethereum’s current problems stem from the fact that it has too many users. (Losing immense riches doesn’t faze him much, either: last year, he dumped $6 billion worth of Shiba Inu tokens that were gifted to him, explaining that he wanted to give some to charity, help maintain the meme coin’s value, and surrender his role as a “locus of power.”) In the meantime, he and the EF—which holds almost a billion dollars worth of Ether in reserve, a representative confirmed—are taking several approaches to improve the ecosystem. Last year, they handed out $27 million to Ethereum-based projects, up from $7.7 million in 2019, to recipients including smart-contract developers and an educational conference in Lagos. The EF research team is also working on two crucial technical updates. The first is known as the “merge,” which converts Ethereum from Proof of Work, a form of blockchain verification, to Proof of Stake, which the EF says will reduce Ethereum’s energy usage by more than 99% and make the network more secure. Buterin has been stumping for Proof of Stake since Ethereum’s founding, but repeated delays have turned implementation into a Waiting for Godot–style drama. At ETHDenver, the EF researcher Danny Ryan declared that the merge would happen within the next six months, unless “something insanely catastrophic” happens. The same day, Buterin encouraged companies worried about the environmental impact to delay using Ethereum until the merge is completed—even if it “gets delayed until 2025.” Benjamin Rasmussen for TIMEETHDenver attendee Brent Burdick checks his phone in an NFT gallery room In January, Moxie Marlinspike, co-founder of the messaging app Signal, wrote a widely read critique noting that despite its collectivist mantras, so-called web3 was already coalescing around centralized platforms. As he often does when faced with legitimate criticism, Buterin responded with a thoughtful, detailed post on Reddit. “The properly authenticated decentralized blockchain world is coming, and is much closer to being here than many people think,” he wrote. “I see no technical reason why the future needs to look like the status quo today.” Buterin is aware that crypto’s utopian promises sound stale to many, and calls the race to implement sharding in the face of competition a “ticking time bomb.” “If we don’t have sharding fast enough, then people might just start migrating to more centralized solutions,” he says. “And if after all that stuff happens and it still centralizes, then yes, there’s a much stronger argument that there’s a big problem.” As the technical kinks get worked out, Buterin has turned his attention toward larger sociopolitical issues he thinks the blockchain might solve. On his blog and on Twitter, you’ll find treatises on housing; on voting systems; on the best way to distribute public goods; on city building and longevity research. While Buterin spent much of the pandemic living in Singapore, he increasingly lives as a digital nomad, writing dispatches from the road. Those who know Buterin well have noticed a philosophical shift over the years. “He’s gone on a journey from being more sympathetic to anarcho-capitalist thinking to Georgist-type thinking,” says Glen Weyl, an economist who is one of his close collaborators, referring to a theory that holds the value of the commons should belong equally to all members of society. One of Buterin’s recent posts calls for the creation of a new type of NFT, based not on monetary value but on participation and identity. For instance, the allocation of votes in an organization might be determined by the commitment an individual has shown to the group, as opposed to the number of tokens they own. “NFTs can represent much more of who you are and not just what you can afford,” he writes. Read More: How Crypto Investors Are Handling Plunging Prices While Buterin’s blog is one of his main tools of public persuasion, his posts aren’t meant to be decrees, but rather intellectual explorations that invite debate. Buterin often dissects the flaws of obscure ideas he once wrote effusively about, like Harberger taxes. His blog is a model for how a leader can work through complex ideas with transparency and rigor, exposing the messy process of intellectual growth for all to see, and perhaps learn from. Some of Buterin’s more radical ideas can provoke alarm. In January, he caused a minor outrage on Twitter by advocating for synthetic wombs, which he argued could reduce the pay gap between men and women. He predicts there’s a decent chance someone born today will live to be 3,000, and takes the anti-diabetes medication Metformin in the hope of slowing his body’s aging, despite mixed studies on the drug’s efficacy. Subscribe to TIME’s newsletter Into the Metaverse for a weekly guide to the future of the Internet. You can find past issues of the newsletter here. As governmental bodies prepare to wade into crypto—in March, President Biden signed an Executive Order seeking a federal plan for regulating digital assets—Buterin has increasingly been sought out by politicians. At ETHDenver, he held a private conversation with Colorado Governor Jared Polis, a Democrat who supports cryptocurrencies. Buterin is anxious about crypto’s political valence in the U.S., where Republicans have generally been more eager to embrace it. “There’s definitely signs that are making it seem like crypto is on the verge of becoming a right-leaning thing,” Buterin says. “If it does happen, we’ll sacrifice a lot of the potential it has to offer.” To Buterin, the worst-case scenario for the future of crypto is that blockchain technology ends up concentrated in the hands of dictatorial governments. He is unhappy with El Salvador’s rollout of Bitcoin as legal tender, which has been riddled with identity theft and volatility. The prospect of governments using the technology to crack down on dissent is one reason Buterin is adamant about crypto remaining decentralized. He sees the technology as the most powerful equalizer to surveillance technology deployed by governments (like China’s) and powerful companies (like Meta) alike. If Mark Zuckerberg shouldn’t have the power to make epoch-changing decisions or control users’ data for profit, Buterin believes, then neither should he—even if that limits his ability to shape the future of his creation, sends some people to other blockchains, or allows others to use his platform in unsavory ways. “I would love to have an ecosystem that has lots of good crazy and bad crazy,” Buterin says. “Bad crazy is when there’s just huge amounts of money being drained and all it’s doing is subsidizing the hacker industry. Good crazy is when there’s tech work and research and development and public goods coming out of the other end. So there’s this battle. And we have to be intentional, and make sure more of the right things happen.” —With reporting by Nik Popli and Mariah Espada/Washington.....»»

Category: topSource: timeMar 18th, 2022

US Drug Agents Ramp Up Fentanyl Counterattack On Chinese Mainland (As DEA Faces Its Own Troubles At Home)

US Drug Agents Ramp Up Fentanyl Counterattack On Chinese Mainland (As DEA Faces Its Own Troubles At Home) Authored by Vince Bielski via RealClearInvestigations.com, U.S. drug agents are expanding operations in China – six years after America’s largest trading partner and global rival emerged as the main source of chemicals used to make highly lethal fentanyl. It’s now claiming 65,000 American lives a year. The small crew of about a dozen Drug Enforcement Administration agents, including those in new outposts in Shanghai and Guangzhou, is nearly double the number in 2018. They face what seems like mission impossible: collaborating with Chinese agents to try to bust traffickers hidden somewhere in a sprawling export supply chain that’s linked to 160,000 companies.  “It’s such a massive chemical industry, and then there are layer upon layer of traders, brokers and freight forwarders,” says Russ Holske, the DEA’s director for the Far East, who set up the new offices in China before he retired. “It’s a daunting challenge.” A 2020 Drug Enforcement Administration report maps the flow of fentanyl to the U.S., DEA The DEA’s predicament in China is part of a larger one at the beleaguered agency, whose mission is to break up major drug trafficking rings worldwide. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that’s mostly made in Mexico with Chinese chemicals, is the deadliest illicit drug ever sold. It’s behind the record number of overdose deaths that keeps growing each year. But the DEA is facing this menace after suffering a series of blows that has left it a smaller and less aggressive and effective outfit, according to several former special agents, high-ranking officials and agency documents. Some of the damage has been self-inflicted. An embarrassing sex scandal involving agents in Colombia and a botched operation that took four civilian lives in Honduras have made Congress wary of the agency. It was left to drift without a Senate-confirmed leader for half a decade, and retreated from some foreign operations, as fentanyl was beginning to leave its lethal mark on the streets. The DEA also has been swept up in the country’s turn against law enforcement as a force for good, leading to morale problems that afflict police departments as well as the Border Patrol. Hundreds of DEA agents left and weren’t replaced, sapping it of its crime-fighting prowess. Some academics, along with the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for decriminalization, are even calling for the group to be eliminated. “Yes, the DEA should be disbanded,” says sociologist Alex Vitale, author of “The End of Policing.” “They have two strategies, interdiction and criminalization, and neither is working.” The agency declined to comment for this story. Restoring DEA’s Urgency Critics such as Vitale blame the agency for the easy availability of narcotics like heroin in every part of the country. But that’s not entirely the DEA’s fault. With a force of 4,700 agents – a third the number of FBI agents – the DEA is up against sophisticated transnational criminal organizations. Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel alone rakes in several billions of dollars in revenue a year, according to estimates. That’s about the size of the entire DEA $3 billion budget. With DEA offices in 69 countries, its ability to crack down on cartels depends on the cooperation of foreign leaders. The agency has apparently found a willing partner in China, which banned a half-dozen fentanyl substances that traffickers were shipping to the states. As clandestine chemists circumvented the restrictions by tweaking the molecules of the substances to create new ones, China got tougher, outlawing the entire class of fentanyl drugs in 2019. This win for the DEA reflected a collaboration with China not enjoyed by other U.S. agencies.  “China, to its credit, helped us quite a bit,” says Holske, the former DEA director. “The controls tightened the pipeline of fentanyl that was coming directly to the U.S. and killing Americans.” But Chinese traffickers quickly found another workaround by selling the chemicals to make fentanyl to cartels in Mexico, which put up roadblocks to DEA agents. In the past year alone, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has delayed visas for agents and restricted intelligence sharing in protest of the DEA arrest of a former defense minister on drug-related charges. U.S. officials recently pressured Mexico to restore some cooperation with DEA agents in pursuit of the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels – the biggest producers of fentanyl powder and counterfeit pharmaceutical pills laced with it. The cartels smuggle the contraband into the states at official ports of entry and along open patches of the border left unguarded as Border Patrol agents are diverted to deal with another crisis – the surge of migrants. Still, the DEA’s interdiction efforts may have saved thousands of lives. In August, a two-month domestic enforcement surge nabbed 850 dealers and added to the total of more than 15 million fake pills seized in the past year. Some 40% of those pills contained a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl, which is 50 times more potent than heroin. The agency could be more effective, some former agents say, if it revived its aggressive pursuit of international cartels and replenished its ranks. President Biden did appoint a permanent DEA chief, Anne Milgram, who has a record as a law enforcement reformer who gets results. But the administration’s fentanyl strategy focuses heavily on increasing drug prevention and treatment – a long-term approach that can curb overdose deaths only if the drug supply on the streets is also reduced by law enforcement agents, according to treatment experts.  “I cut my teeth as an agent on the street. We were risk-takers and aggressive in everything we did to put bad guys in jail,” said Jack Riley, who was the DEA’s second-in-command before retiring in 2017. “But we have lost that sense of urgency. We need to get that back to be more effective.” Taking Down Medellin Riley, who helped put Sinaloa’s most notorious leader – Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman – in prison, says the agency has proved its mettle over the years. Consider the dismantling of Colombia’s Medellin and Cali cartels in the 1990s. Medellin’s leader, Pablo Escobar, led a murderous campaign against government officials and became a threat to the country’s democracy. Although new cartels grew out of the ashes of Medellin and Cali – showing that law enforcement alone won’t end drug trafficking – the killing of Escobar was itself a win, says David Gaddis, a former DEA agent in Colombia and high-ranking official. “Escobar tried to take over the Colombian government and he was almost successful,” Gaddis says. “The new cartels do not have the same influence over the government as Medellin did. That’s a success for DEA.” The DEA bagged several other drug kingpins before the agency lost some of its luster. Agency veterans date the DEA’s decline to 2015 after revelations that 10 agents had participated in “sex parties” in Colombia with prostitutes paid for by the cartels. The uproar in Congress led to the departure of DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart, a former agent who embodied the agency’s boldness. Leonhart’s 2015 exit was followed by a parade of five acting administrators over five years. Putting a Rein on Agents First up was Chuck Rosenberg, a prosecutor who aimed to rein in what some saw as a cowboy mentality. Edicts from headquarters instructed agents to be more careful in carrying out operations. Leaders feared a questionable shooting could derail the DEA in the wake of the 2014 police killing in Ferguson, Mo., says Jeffrey Higgins, a former special agent for two decades. The biggest pullback was overseas. DEA had built a large special forces operation of about 125 personnel to battle narco-terrorists in Afghanistan. The operation paid off with the conviction of Haji Bagcho, the world’s biggest heroin trafficker. But after the killing of Americans in Benghazi in 2012, the Obama administration reduced the DEA’s presence in Kabul to only a handful of agents, says Riley. Rosenberg then disbanded the DEA’s FAST units, a paramilitary force that assisted local officers in high-risk operations. A 2017 inspector general report found that FAST agents were involved in an operation in Honduras in which four likely bystanders were killed. The end of FAST marked a shift in DEA strategy to focus more on domestic smugglers and street gangs. Some agents opposed it. “It makes no sense,” says Higgins, who worked in about 50 countries. “It’s far more effective to put resources into dismantling a major global exportation organization than to go downstream and take out one of 30 U.S. distribution groups that get the drugs from that criminal organization.” Citing differences over policing with new president Donald Trump, Rosenberg resigned after two years and became an MSNBC commentator. His replacement at DEA found that the “acting administrator” title was worthless and walked after eight months. Next up was Uttam Dhillon, a former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles then on Trump’s White House staff. He didn’t understand the DEA’s organizational issues and lost the support of agents, Riley says. He was replaced in 2020 by another short-lived acting head. The churn at the top produced disillusionment in the ranks. Many agents retired early or just quit the agency, leaving the DEA down 700 agents  compared to a decade ago. Foreign offices shrunk by a quarter. Predictably, the number of crime organizations that agents disrupted or dismantled worldwide plummeted by one-third – from 2,735 to 1,869 – between 2016 and 2020, according to DEA’s recent report to Congress. The timing couldn’t have been worse. The DEA was losing muscle just as Chinese traffickers were increasing shipments of illicit fentanyl to the U.S. The agency had finally gotten a handle on the oversupply of prescription opioids like OxyContin that were killing an alarming number of Americans. But now fentanyl, a more deadly synthetic opioid, was filling the void. A Conundrum in China The DEA led a full-court press to get China to ban fentanyl, an array of spinoffs and the chemicals to make them. Starting in 2014, acting DEA chiefs, Justice Department officials and chemical experts began holding regular meetings with their Chinese counterparts in Washington and Beijing to press for the restrictions. China has long taken a hard line against drug traffickers, which created some common ground for the rival superpowers to cooperate despite tensions about trade and human rights. The secretive courts in China have handed out death sentences to those convicted of major drug offenses. Recent cases involving Canadian and Australian nationals have sparked protests from Amnesty International and pleas for leniency from foreign officials. But China’s harsh punishments weren’t an issue in the successful bilateral talks over the criminalization of fentanyl, perhaps because no Americans were facing the death penalty.  The fentanyl bans don’t mean much, however, if they’re not enforced. While Chinese authorities have curtailed shipments directly to the U.S., the DEA says, traffickers are supplying Mexican cartels with enough of the precursor chemicals – some of them also outlawed – to flood the states with deadly pills and powder. U.S. border agents seized 10,600 pounds of fentanyl in fiscal 2021, more than twice the prior year. That’s a small fraction of the amount that reaches cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco. The biggest case in China to date was kicked off by U.S. agents who shared intelligence about the “Diana” criminal group with the Chinese Narcotics Control Bureau. The joint investigation led to the conviction of nine Chinese citizens for fentanyl smuggling in 2019. One defendant received a suspended death sentence and a few were sent to prison for life. Officials from both countries hailed the investigation, which continues today, as a sign of their expanding cooperation. But while China has made several more fentanyl-related arrests, it doesn’t appear to have convicted any major traffickers in the two years since the Diana case. Some former DEA agents question how far China is willing to go in enforcing its bans since the U.S. would be the main beneficiary. While DEA agents in countries such as Indonesia join police in raids and debriefing defendants, in China they are unarmed and play a more limited role. Agents exchange intelligence and discuss cases with local officers but only occasionally work in the field.    At times agents also run into resistance from Chinese authorities, according to an August report by a congressional group that examines U.S.-China economic and security issues. “Chinese regulatory authorities continue to delay requests for access to inspect and investigate potential sites of illegal chemical production where precursors are made,” the report said. “Requests are often delayed for days, allowing any illegal operation to vacate or clean up the premises.” The Chinese Embassy in Washington issued a strongly worded rebuttal in September, showing the tenuous nature of China’s cooperation with the DEA. The embassy called the assessment that Chinese precursors are flowing to Mexico and that authorities obstruct the work of U.S. agents “utterly false.” “It is disappointing that for all the goodwill and sincerity of the Chinese side,” the embassy said, “some American politicians and media are still hyping up such disinformation.” A strong impression on agents: DEA's Milgram speaks movingly at slain agent Michael Garbo's service. DEA/YouTube New Leaders Take Charge Milgram, the new DEA chief, has an advantage that eluded her predecessors in the global war on fentanyl. She won Senate confirmation in June, giving her the authority to reshape the troubled agency at a pivotal time. Milgram has a record of bringing innovative, data-driven approaches to law enforcement agencies that still tend to operate on gut instinct and perform poorly. After New Jersey took control of the Camden police because of the city’s alarmingly high crime rate, Milgram, who was the state’s attorney general, used data analysis to shake up the department. In 2009 murders fell by 38% from the prior year by making cops walk the streets and confiscate guns. At DEA, she is preparing to make changes too. In August the administrator began a top-to-bottom review of foreign operations supervised by a team of outsiders, saying she’s looking for “areas of improvement” as well as “controls to ensure integrity and accountability.” She also tapped the politically savvy Jon DeLena, an associate special agent in charge, to examine how the agency can repair relations with Congress, which is crucial to funding and hiring agents, says Riley, the former deputy. In another move in August, Milgram brought back Lou Milione as her deputy. Riley says the veteran of special operations was known for his “kick ass” leadership against cartel bosses. Milione’s return may signal a revival of a more aggressive approach to the kind of global crime groups that run the fentanyl trade. “He’s a smart guy and he really understands the good results you get from targeting the international cartels,” says Higgins, the former FAST agent who helped take down Haji Bagcho. In October, Milgram for the first time faced the killing of one of her agents. The shooting death of group supervisor Mike Garbo in Arizona rocked the DEA – a reminder of the added dangers when there are fewer agents in the field. The administrator spoke at the memorial service. Her detailed account of Garbo’s talents made a strong impression on agents, whose support she needs in her efforts to revive the DEA, Riley says. “Milgram will make changes,” he says. “But she has a huge challenge with fentanyl. China and Mexico have to do much more to stop it. The DEA can only do so much on its own.” Tyler Durden Wed, 12/15/2021 - 23:00.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytDec 16th, 2021

Why The Border Is Such A Problem For Biden... And America

Why The Border Is Such A Problem For Biden... And America Authored by Charles Lipson via RealClearPolitics.com, The Biden administration is drowning on issue after issue, and many of the bubbles are coming from the Rio Grande River. The problem, which dare not speak its name, is illegal immigration. The administration, its political party, and the mainstream media refuse to say the very word “illegal.” For a while, they called it “undocumented,” pretending the migrants somehow forgot their papers in the top dresser drawer in Guatemala or Haiti. Now, even that bland phrase is deemed too clear and honest. The new woke term is “irregular immigration.” Anything to minimize the problem, sway public opinion, and avoid plain talk. The obfuscation goes much further than a few phrases. Consider Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas’ testimony to Congress last week, where he faced awkward questions about the administration’s decision to stop building the border wall, including portions that had already been contracted and paid for. Mayorkas’ reply, “We are not going to construct a border wall along the ragged and jagged cliffs along certain parts of the border." He was addressing a fake issue, answering a question that had not been asked so he could avoid answering the one that actually had been. His misdirection was intentional. Even hardline Republicans agree that a wall is not needed for remote, rugged areas. High-tech solutions work well there and cost less. It’s true that Donald Trump once proposed a wall along the entire border. It’s also true that he abandoned that idea long ago. No one is proposing it now. What Mayorkas was asked was why the administration had stopped building the wall in flat, accessible areas where hundreds of thousands of people have been streaming across. He had no answer. So he spewed more bubbles from a drowning administration. Mayorkas’ performance illustrates George Orwell’s observations in what is perhaps the best essay ever written about politics and the English language. “In our time,” he asserted, “political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.” What Orwell wrote in 1946 is still true. Some political acts are “too brutal for most people to face, and ... do not square with the professed aims of political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.” Watching its policies fail catastrophically on the U.S.-Mexican border has not nudged the Biden administration into discussing this issue forthrightly. The public isn’t buying either the gobbledygook or the policies. In the latest Rasmussen survey, 57% of likely voters say the government is doing too little to reduce illegal border crossings and visitor overstays. Only 20% rate the level of government action as about right; 65% of independent voters say the government is doing too little. Why are the poll numbers so stark? The two most compelling reasons are that illegal border crossings have reached record numbers and the public believes that conditions won’t improve without major policy changes. They’re right. According to official data, first obtained by the Washington Post, “U.S. authorities detained more than 1.7 million migrants along the Mexico border during the 2021 fiscal year that ended in September, and arrests by the Border Patrol soared to the highest levels ever recorded.” In October alone, the Border Patrol apprehended over 160,000 people, more than double the number for the previous year and larger than the population of Syracuse, N.Y. That’s in one month. And they keep coming. Third, the public fears this surge of illegal migration will harm communities far beyond the Texas border, both because the administration is secretly transferring migrants and because drug cartels are using the open border to transport massive quantities of opioids, heroin, and fake pharmaceuticals. The administration keeps repeating, “The border is closed,” but the cartels, coyotes, and caravans know better. Fourth, voters can see the Biden administration has no answers. None. Even worse for Democrats, the best answers are those pursued by his predecessor — the ones Biden junked as soon as he took office. The administration cannot restore those policies without admitting error. To do so would say, in effect, that President Trump’s harsh approach worked better. That would be intolerable to the party’s left wing and many in the center. Instead of proposing practical solutions, the administration floated the quixotic idea of fixing the “root causes of emigration” in Central America and the Caribbean. That’s an elusive goal at best, and, in any case, would not help the U.S. for years. It’s hand waving, not serious policy. Since Kamala Harris was handed responsibility for this latest initiative, it’s tempting to blame her. But the failure is not hers. It’s Biden’s. The White House sent her on a fool’s errand. Washington simply doesn’t have the tools needed to reverse the region’s endemic poverty, danger, and corruption. Nor does it have a track record of solving these problems, despite decades of effort. It’s hard to imagine the administration could come up with worse policies, but it is trying. The administration’s latest brainchild is to pay massive sums to every family of illegal immigrants separated at the border during the last administration. (They were given the opportunity to return home together but declined.) The idea is so unpopular the White House refuses to defend it at press briefings. So does Mayorkas. All of them say, “Talk to the Department of Justice.” The DoJ’s lips are sealed. Finally, the public is starting to connect rampant lawlessness on the southern border with rampant lawlessness in American cities. After all, Democrats control both and defend their policies on the same specious grounds: social justice. Criminals find this new terrain inviting. They have dramatically increased shoplifting, carjacking, armed robberies, and murder. Police see the same pattern. When they see mayors refusing to support them and prosecutors refusing to do their jobs, cops on the beat won’t do theirs, either. Why risk your life and career to arrest someone who won’t face serious jail time? Why chase criminals down mean streets when it’s safer to stay in your patrol car? Voters are troubled by these failures and are deeply unhappy with the officials responsible for them. That’s the message from recent elections in New York City, Buffalo, Minneapolis, Virginia, New Jersey, and now Columbia, S.C., where a Democrat lost the mayoralty only a year after Biden carried the city by 40 points. The theme here is the same one heard in the movie “Network”: People are “mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore.” That’s also the message from the latest poll by YouGov and The Economist, which shows only 27% of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction. Illegal immigration is a big part of that “wrong direction,” along with inflation and COVID. The public’s frustration is understandable. Citizens, to use another verboten concept, want to see basic laws enforced and social order restored. Those aren’t unreasonable demands; they are the most basic responsibilities of government. Before Washington takes on even more responsibilities and piles on more taxes to pay for them, as Biden proposes with his social-spending bill, they want it to perform the tasks it already has. Law-abiding citizens — whatever their race, whatever their income — want to go about their lives in peace. They want criminals caught and punished so others will be deterred. They want public servants who understand that responsibility and do their jobs. That’s what Americans are saying in poll after poll, vote after vote. They have soundly rejected candidates who justify the chaos in the name of social justice and racial equity. They want is better policing, without prejudice  and without excessive force. They don’t want defunding and dismantling. Their demands are reasonable and realistic. Meeting them is essential for a stable democracy. Politicians ignore them at their peril. Tyler Durden Thu, 11/25/2021 - 22:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 25th, 2021

The Future of Crypto Is Bright, But Governments Must Help Manage the Risks

Bitcoin seemed to be on a roll. El Salvador in early September declared the cryptocurrency to be legal tender, allowing it to be used for payments. There is talk of Bitcoin becoming a medium of exchange in Afghanistan, enabling financial transactions in a society where the issuance of conventional money has broken down. The cryptocurrency… Bitcoin seemed to be on a roll. El Salvador in early September declared the cryptocurrency to be legal tender, allowing it to be used for payments. There is talk of Bitcoin becoming a medium of exchange in Afghanistan, enabling financial transactions in a society where the issuance of conventional money has broken down. The cryptocurrency is even entering mainstream finance with this week’s introduction of a Bitcoin exchange traded fund on the New York Stock Exchange, allowing U.S. investors to speculate on Bitcoin prices without actually owning it. And of course early investors in Bitcoin have minted fortunes. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Amid all this hype, financial regulators in Washington have started to express increasing concerns about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Then last month, China brought down the hammer—banning all cryptocurrencies. As Bitcoin continues to elicit both enthusiastic and fearful responses, does the cryptocurrency have a future? The answer is complicated. Bitcoin will hardly topple the dollar or other major central bank-issued currencies, but its technology will change how we conduct payments, banking and other financial transactions. These changes will bring many benefits although there are significant downsides as well. Governments will have to play a key role in getting this balance right. Bitcoin’s main attraction was that it would enable users to conduct financial transactions using only their digital identities, and to complete those transactions without using fiat currency issued by a national central bank or relying on a trusted intermediary such as a commercial bank or credit card provider. The technology that enables this feat, called blockchain, is truly innovative. All transaction information and Bitcoin digital account balances are recorded on public digital ledgers, visible to anyone with an internet connection, that are maintained on multiple computers worldwide. Remarkably, it is this extreme transparency that makes the blockchain secure and tamper-proof. Read more: El Salvador Is Betting on Bitcoin to Rebrand the Country — and Strengthen the President’s Grip For all its technological razzle dazzle, however, Bitcoin suffers from fundamental weaknesses that stand in its way of becoming a viable medium of exchange for financial transactions. Bitcoin transactions are slow and expensive, and its network cannot process large transaction volumes. A bigger problem for an aspiring medium of exchange is unstable value. Bitcoin’s wild price fluctuations, from month to month and even from day to day, make it unreliable for day-to-day transactions. In its early days, Bitcoin acquired an unsavory reputation for facilitating illicit commerce. It has been used recently by hackers who demanded ransomware payments in bitcoins but criminals have mostly moved on to other cryptocurrencies that offer stronger anonymity than Bitcoin. Still, governments look askance at all such cryptocurrencies for fear that they can facilitate illegal activities such as money laundering, drug trafficking and terrorism financing. That is not all. Because there is no centralized authority that manages Bitcoin, transactions cannot be reversed and mistakes cannot be rectified. Bitcoin balances that are stored in digital wallets can be lost forever if users forget or misplace their passwords. Moreover, the process by which transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain are validated requires enormous computing power and energy, with terrible environmental consequences. Oddly, even while it has largely failed in its original purpose of facilitating transactions, Bitcoin has become a financial asset. Many investors seem to believe that it is a secure investment because of its scarcity. Unlike fiat currencies such as the dollar that can be printed at will by central banks, the computer algorithm that manages Bitcoin limits its total issuance to 21 million bitcoins (about 18.5 million have been created so far). To base the value of an asset, which has no intrinsic use, just on scarcity seems a dubious proposition. But that has not stopped investors from pouring money in, creating a massive speculative bubble. The total market value of all cryptocurrencies is now a stunning $2 trillion. For all Bitcoin’s flaws, the blockchain technology itself is maturing. Some new cryptocurrencies, called stablecoins, have better potential to serve as mediums of exchange. They have stable value because they are backed by stores of fiat currencies. With this modification, the technology has the potential to make low-cost digital payments widely accessible. Many low-income households, including in the U.S. lack access to digital payments because they do not have a credit card or bank account. International payments, which are beset by even more impediments, could also be made cheaper, quicker, and easier to track. These changes will be a boon to consumers, businesses, as well as exporters and importers. Read more: Inside the World of Black Bitcoin, Where Crypto Is About Making More Than Just Money Blockchain-based finance, which sidesteps conventional financial institutions, is viewed by proponents as a way to democratize finance, enabling broader and easier access to a wide array of financial products and services. For instance, variants of the original technology are making it easier to connect savers and borrowers directly, bypassing banks. The prospect of easy access to digital payments and basic banking products for savings and credit is one that could be beneficial not just in developing countries but even in a rich country like the U.S., where about 5% of the adult population is cut out of the formal financial system. But technology cannot solve all problems and even creates new ones. Financial regulators face particular challenges in updating rules to cover cryptocurrencies and related financial products that often fall between the regulatory cracks. Investor protection is a serious concern as naïve, retail investors might end up taking on more risk than they realize when they get dazzled by the promise of a quick pathway to riches from the new technologies. Facebook plans to issue its own stablecoin, raising questions about privacy and how such corporations will exploit users’ data and, perhaps one day, their power to issue their own currencies that directly compete with fiat money. Here, too, the government has to play a role in setting up guardrails for the use of consumer data and to avoid the use of such unregulated cryptocurrencies for illicit commerce. Finally, there is the unsettling prospect that, rather than the new technologies leading to a more equal society, inequities in digital access and financial literacy could end up worsening socioeconomic disparities. The proliferation of digital finance could disenfranchise households that lack reliable digital connectivity. Moreover, the risks embedded in crypto assets might end up largely falling in the laps of uneducated investors who get swept up at the tail end of speculative frenzies. The future promised by the technological revolution Bitcoin has spawned is a bright one. While embracing the transformative potential of blockchain technology to benefit their citizens, governments will still have to play an active role in managing the technological, financial and social risks......»»

Category: topSource: timeOct 22nd, 2021

Victor Davis Hanson: The Left Got What It Wanted - So Now What?

Victor Davis Hanson: The Left Got What It Wanted - So Now What? Authored by Victor Davis Hanson via AmGreatness.com, There is no schadenfreude in seeing the Left destroy everything it touches - because its claws tear all of us as well... What was the purpose for the insane opposition of the Left between 2017 and 2021? To usher in a planned nihilism, an incompetent chaos, a honed anarchy to wreck the country in less than a year? Then No sooner had Donald Trump entered office than scores of House Democrats filed motions for impeachment, apparently for thought crimes that he might, some day, in theory, could possibly commit. Foreign Policy published an article by a liberal Obama Administration lawyer outlining all the ways to remove an elected president as soon as possible—including consideration of a military coup.  The FBI and the entrenched bureaucrats at the Justice Department continued their prior failed efforts during the campaign to seed the lies of the fabricated Steele dossier and Fusion GPS. A 22-month-long and $40 million hoax ended with the special counsel himself, a doddering Robert Mueller, swearing under oath that he essentially knew nothing about the dossier or Fusion GPS—the twin catalysts that had prompted his very own investigation.  Fired FBI Director James Comey—a lion on Twitter, and a lamb when under oath—on over 240 occasions testified to the Congress that he either did not know or could not remember, when asked details about the collusion fraud that the philosopher G-man had helped perpetuate.  No one worried about the weaponization of government. So, we went right from the nefarious legacy of John Brennan (who lied under oath to Congress twice), James Clapper (who lied under oath to Congress once), James Comey (who leaked confidential presidential memos), Andrew McCabe (who gave false testimony to federal investigators), Lisa Page (who was fired from the special counsel’s legal team for various unprofessional conduct), Peter Strzok (about whom there is not enough space to detail his transgressions), and the now convicted felon Kevin Clinesmith onto the next round of impeachments.  Two of them followed. Neither was conducted by a special counsel. There was no array of witnesses, no prosecutorial report. Much less were there formal charges of a specific high crime or misdemeanor, or bribery or treason, as specified by the Constitution.  In the end, both farces ended in trials—but not before the Left had established lots of baleful precedents. Impeachment is now simply a tool to embarrass a president in his first term when he has lost the House. A Senate trial could hound an innocent president, even as a private citizen out of office. And a chief justice need not preside over the Senate trial. If and when Joe Biden loses the House, the Left should applaud any attempt to impeach him—given it established the new model of opposition. Of the January 6 debacle, we were not told that it was a riot involving lawbreakers who would be punished. Instead, we were lied to that it was an “armed insurrection,” a “coup,” and “a rebellion” of massive proportions.  Our esteemed retired military and civil libertarians who had damned the mere thought of using federal troops to quell the prior four summer months of continuous rioting were suddenly happy to see 25,000 federal soldiers patrol Washington to hound out fantasy second-wave insurrectionists. In Animal Farm fashion, there were now to be good federal troops deterring mythical violent domestic extremists, but bad federal troops who should never stop real, ongoing mayhem in the streets. It mattered nothing that “armed” in the case of January 6 meant that no firearms were used or even found among the protestors. No one was charged with conspiracy, insurrection, or racketeering. But many were placed in solitary confinement without specific charges being filed—to the utter delight of liberal groups like the ACLU and human rights organizations. The FBI—recently known mostly for spreading Hillary Clinton’s campaign collusion hoax—found no premeditated grand plot. The remaining media narratives were also untrue: Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick was not murdered, but died tragically of a stroke the next day. Five persons were not “killed.” Four who died were Trump supporters. Only one of the five deaths occurred at the hand of a known other—a 14-year military veteran, unarmed, 110-pound female Ashli Babbitt. She was fatally shot while attempting to enter through a window of the Capitol by a law-enforcement officer—to the frequent approbation of the left-wing commentariat. The officer’s name was hidden for months from the public—something conspicuously uncharacteristic in other cases where law enforcement officers are involved in shooting unarmed suspects.  Videos surrounding the entire melee still have been repressed. They likely will never be released. That infamous day remains in dire contrast to the prior 120 days of continuous rioting, looting, and arson. In the election-year summer 2020, federal courthouses and iconic buildings were torched. Nearly $2 billion worth of property was destroyed and 28 were killed.  Yet current Vice President Kamala Harris rallied the public to help bail out the arrested. And the architect of the “1619 Project” reassured Americans that crimes against property like arson and looting are not really violence per se. The weeks of “spontaneous” mayhem magically vanished after November 3, 2020. Note that esteemed medical professionals argued that BLM protestors who flooded the streets were exempt from quarantine, social distancing, and mask requirements, given their higher morality. There are now good riots and bad ones, and noble sustained silence about a noble officer who lethally shoots an unarmed suspect, and noble immediate outing of an ignoble officer who lethally shoots an unarmed suspect. These were merely the main media distortions and fixations over the last four years. We forget the daily craziness such as a president’s calls to foreign heads of state routinely leaked or the FBI director passing on confidential memos of private presidential conversations to the liberal press, or the “whistleblower” who was not a whistleblower as much as a Democratic operative. The media nadir came when the press bellowed that Trump had overfed a fish. An array of retired four-stars damned their president as Hitlerian, Mussolini-like, and deserving an early exit from office. Their superior morality naturally excused them from abiding by the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  The New York Times falsely identified a minor Trump Administration bureaucrat (“anonymous”) as a major conservative truth-teller—once he thrilled the media by lying that a large, morally superior, inside cabal was devoted to obstructing the implementation of a president’s orders. Everyone from Hillary Clinton to an active FBI lawyer bragged of joining the “Resistance,” with plenty of conspiratorial retro-accusations that the 2016 election was “rigged.” All that was a warm-up for the plague year in which Donald Trump was blamed for every COVID death. His medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci was deified, due largely to his coy opposition to the president he was supposed to serve.  Both the current president and vice president had, less than a year ago, urged Americans not to be vaccinated, given their own reluctance to take a “Trump” vaccine. At least the anti-vaxxers had consistent opposition to the experimental inoculations; in contrast, the anti-Trumper anti-vaxxers merely saw sabotaging the 2020 vaccination program as necessary to be in a position to claim it as their own in 2021. Now What did all that madness achieve? Mostly, the first election in U.S. history in which over 100 million ballots were not cast on Election Day. Strangely, with such an avalanche of ballots, the usual error rate of absentee balloting dived from around 2-4 percent to 0.2-0.4 percent. You see, when we suddenly must count tens of millions more paper ballots then it becomes easier, not harder, to spot errors. So, the Left won its Pyrrhic victory.  The nation was done with the demonized Trump and now the Left controlled the presidency, and both houses of Congress. Somnolent Ol’ Joe Biden from Scranton pledged to heal the nation as he overturned his predecessor’s supposedly disastrous policies and went on a rampage of slandering his opponents. If Donald Trump was once damned as non compos mentis, the same media and academic accusers kept mum as Biden shuffled, fell, went mute, slurred words, and went off on angry, disjointed, and incoherent riffs. What followed was a concerted effort to destroy the Trump record: the greatest level of combined annual natural gas and oil production in any nation’s history, record low minority unemployment and near record peacetime, general unemployment, a border secure and illegal immigration finally under control, and a New Middle East in which Israel and its Arab enemies concluded neutrality pacts. China was put on notice for its past mockery of global norms. Inflation was low, growth was good. “Stagflation” was still a rarely remembered word from the past. And again, what was all that Pavlovian nihilism to achieve?  Within eight months the following was finalized: Joe Biden utterly destroyed the idea of a border. Some 2 million were scheduled to cross illegally in the current fiscal year. The sheer inhumanity of deplorable conditions at the border surpassed any notion of the “cages” Donald Trump, in fact, had inherited from the humanitarian Barack Obama.  A war almost immediately broke out in the Middle East, once Biden distanced the United States from Israel and rebooted the radical Palestinian cause.  The Taliban defeated the 20-year effort of the United States in Afghanistan, in the most humiliating withdrawal of the American military in over 45 years. Tens of billions of dollars of abandoned military equipment now arm the Taliban and have turned Afghanistan into a world arms mart for terrorists. Iran is emboldened and speeds up its nuclear proliferation efforts. China brags that the United States has been Afghanistanized and will not defend its allies, Taiwan in particular.  At home, gas prices have soared. Prior trillion-dollar deficits now seem financially prudent in comparison to multitrillion-dollar red ink. The nation is more racially polarized than at any time in the last half-century. A bleak and venomous woke creed has outdone the hate and fear of the McCarthyism of the 1950s, as it wages war on half the nation for various thought crimes and the incorrect idea that the United States was, is, and always will be a kind and humane place. More will likely have died each day from COVID by year’s end during the Biden first 12 months than during Trump’s last 12 months. That statistic perhaps might have been meaningless had Biden himself not demagogued the idea that a president is strangely responsible for all pandemic deaths on his watch.  But then again, Biden had warped the pandemic narrative only after he had inherited the Trump vaccination program (17 million vaccinated by Inauguration Day). Biden was wrongly and prematurely convinced that vaxxes were a permanent prophylaxis to any sort of COVID variants that would simply disappear once he took office. Depending on the occasion, Biden claims none, or just 4 million, were vaxxed until he took office, as truth and fantasies waft through his cloudy cognition. With Biden came not just woke polarization, stagflation, a subsidized ennui that erodes the work ethic, and selective nonenforcement of existing laws: Worse, still, we got a bankrupt ideological defense of these insanities. Critical legal theory, critical race theory, and a new monetary theory were all dreamed up by parlor academics to justify the nihilism.  Did America ever believe that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would trash his commander in chief as Hitlerian to journalist hitmen, or allegedly denounce news organizations as “terrorists,” or interrupt the chain of command on a prompt by the Speaker of the House, or warn the Chinese military that he believed there was enough instability in the White House to justify a promise to warn of any impending U.S. military action against Beijing deemed offensive? Was General Milley suffering from the very “white rage” he sought to ferret out? With Biden, China is now omnipresent in the halls of power. A task of our chief COVID advisor, Anthony Fauci, seems to be to deny repeatedly that his stealthy funding of gain-of-function research at the Wuhan virology lab in China had anything to do with the likely accidental release of a likely human engineered and energized coronavirus. Americans still cannot even imagine that their government might have helped subsidize the plague germ that has wrought such havoc upon them. Meanwhile the president’s son still owns a 10 percent cut in a communist Chinese government-affiliated financial venture, apparently due to his prior drug-addled record of financial mismanagement. The media still insists Hunter Biden’s laptop was “Russian disinformation,” while his paint-by-numbers art is auctioned off to foreign lobbyists expecting a return of the old days when Hunter and Joe grandly arrived on Air Force Two to do their bidding.  What did the Left leave as the proper model for conservatives now to deal with Biden?  Impeach him when he loses the House? Get a special counsel, lavish said counsel with $40 million, a dream team of right-wing lawyers, and 22 months to find real Chinese collusion?  Start seeding a conservative version of Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman and an “anonymous” whistleblower inside the Biden octopus?  Get retired four-star generals on TV to swear Biden is a Chinese “asset,” or have them retweet the idea of sending Biden supporters to China, or swear that he is a fascist? Bring back Woodward and Bernstein to find out whether Biden, Inc. ever paid taxes on all that Chinese and Ukrainian cash?  Call in the ubiquitous Dr. Bandy X. Lee from Yale to administer the Montreal Cognitive Assessment to prove that Biden can distinguish a camel from an elephant or a train from a bike or count backwards from five?  Will the Right prod General Mark Milley’s replacement to collude with soon-to-be Speaker Kevin McCarthy and call the Russians to warn them that Biden is demented, democracy is “messy,” Kamala Harris is crazy, and thus Moscow might need a warning from us about any Biden preemptive aggression? And what of the people who voted for this change and the media that empowered it? In the latest Quinnipiac poll, known for its liberal affinities, Biden now earns a 38 percent approval rating. We should add a few extra negative points given media bias. Do they suffer buyer’s remorse or angst that they were lied to by the hard Left that Joe Biden was cognizant and not a mere vessel for a two-year push for overt socialism? Meanwhile the media is reduced to explaining why an undocumented activist has an understandable right to chase a liberal Democratic senator into a public restroom, hector her, and then video her as she enters a stall to relieve herself and then post the grotesqueness on the internet—a felony in the state of the Arizona, though just part of the “process” for the president of the United States. We could call the above insanity nemesis for woke hubris. Or maybe it is karma, “payback’s a bitch,” or “what goes around comes around.” But there is no schadenfreude in seeing the Left destroy everything it touches—because its claws tear all of us as well. Tyler Durden Wed, 10/13/2021 - 20:45.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeOct 13th, 2021

Mar-a-Lago raid live updates: The FBI raid at Trump"s Mar-a-Lago serves as a reminder of a "lawless president," Democratic strategist says

Former President Donald Trump confirmed that the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago. Trump was out of state when federal agents raided his property in Florida. Donald Trump answers questions from reporters after making a video call to the troops stationed worldwide at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach Florida, on December 24, 2019.NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images The FBI searched former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home on Monday, sparking a firestorm. Nancy Pelosi said no person is "above the law" after the raid, but Republicans condemned it as politically motivated. Republican lawmakers and right-wing organizations are now using the search to fundraise.  The Mar-a-Lago FBI raid serves as a reminder of a 'lawless president,' a Democratic strategist saysPeople walking outside Mar-a-Lago in March 2017Darren SamuelsohnThe FBI raid on former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home puts Trump at the center of midterm elections debates, ensuring voters will hear about his legal problems from now until November.Republican and right-wing groups are already using the raid for fundraising and calling for defunding the FBI while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pledged to investigate the Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland if Republicans take back the House.As they rally support for Trump, Democrats say the FBI's reported search for classified materials that Trump allegedly brought to his home from the White House will serve as yet another reminder of his scandals and massive legal problems for voters."This raises the stakes in the midterms as people see how dangerous the GOP has become," said Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic strategist. "This isn't about political advantage for one party or the other, it's a reminder of what happens if a lawless President is allowed to take power, aided and abetted by MAGA Republicans in Congress."Read MoreFBI seizes cell phone of Trump ally and Pennsylvania Republican Scott Perry, lawmaker claimsRep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., takes a question from a reporter at a news conference held by the House Freedom Caucus on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Aug. 23, 2021.AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-RhoadesA key ally of former President Donald Trump is claiming that federal agents seized his cell phone a day after they executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, though it is not known if the two are connected.In a statement provided to Insider, Rep. Scott Perry, a Republican from Pennsylvania, said that on Tuesday morning, "while traveling with my family, 3 FBI agents visited me and seized my cell phone."Perry denounced the alleged seizure, first reported by Fox News, but did not say what reason the FBI gave him for taking the phone."I'm outraged — though not surprised — that the FBI under the direction of Merrick Garland's DOJ, would seize the phone of a sitting Member of Congress," he stated.KEEP READINGTrump supporters protest FBI raid on a bridge outside Mar-a-Lago: 'It is us against the government'Trump supporters gather on Monday on a bridge leading to Mar-a-Lago.Kimberly Leonard/InsiderFollowing the FBI raid of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence, several dozen Trump supporters gathered Tuesday on a bridge that extends outside the private estate.  Just a small crowd of supporters had gathered as of 2 p.m. Several people who said they were part of Club 45 — an independent Trump-supporting organization — said more people would assemble from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., after people were done working for the day. Traffic was becoming more backed up by 3 p.m. By 5 p.m., about 60 people had gathered on the bridge.Several Trump supporters told Insider they'd heard that Trump would be driving by himself later in the day to get back into Mar-a-Lago and assess his belongings, though a local police officer refuted the rumor to Insider. In interviews, Trump supporters said they thought the FBI raid was politically motivated and would ultimately grow Trump's support, but said they weren't concerned about a civil war. Many repeated false claims that there was widespread fraud during the 2024 election. KEEP READINGHere's what it's like to traverse the members-only grounds of Mar-a-Lago, from a reporter who's been thereInsider DC bureau chief Darren Samuelsohn in March 2017 at Mar-a-Lago, while working as a White House reporter for Politico. Also pictured is the backyard of Donald Trump's private club.Darren SamuelsohnMemories of Mar-a-Lago came flooding back Monday night when the news broke that the FBI had executed a search warrant on Donald Trump's permanent residence.My visits there as a White House reporter for Politico more than five years ago came during the earliest days of Trump's presidency. They gave me an up-close look into all of the controversy and celebrity hoopla that surrounded a man who just months earlier had become the most powerful person on the planet.In all, I made three trips in March 2017 to go inside Trump's exclusive South Florida resort.READ MOREMitch McConnell declined to comment on the FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago as conservatives increasingly call out his silenceSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty ImagesWith former President Donald Trump fuming over an FBI raid of his Mar-a-Lago residence, the American people have yet to receive comment from the most powerful elected Republican in Washington: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.McConnell has yet to issue a statement on Monday's raid, and he dodged a question about it at a Tuesday press conference related to flooding in Eastern Kentucky."I'm here today to talk about the flood and the recovery from the flood," he said when asked for his reaction to the raid. READ MOREWhat's in Trump's search warrant? A grab-bag of potential federal charges, a longtime DOJ prosecutor predictedMar-a-Lago one day after the FBI raid.Kimberly Leonard/InsiderThe feds knew they had only one chance to search Mar-a-Lago — so they carried a big net, Gene Rossi, for three decades a federal prosecutor out of northern Virginia, predicted.The search warrant that got them inside the waterfront Palm Beach estate of former President Donald Trump may have only been one-page long — but the warrant would have authorized FBI agents to seize evidence related to multiple federal statutes, Rossi said."I would be shocked," Rossi told Insider if the search warrant did not list the federal statutes for insurrection, for sedition, and for obstruction — three charges Trump could potentially face for alleged involvement in the January 6, 2021 siege on the Capitol.Keep ReadingRepublicans revive false claim that DOJ called parents 'terrorists' after Mar-a-Lago raidRep. Jim Jordan, a Republican from OhioKevin Dietsch/Getty ImagesRepublicans who are furious with the FBI after the agency's search of former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence are reviving a false talking point that pits the Department of Justice against parents.Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin called the raid "stunning" in a tweet and said, "This same DOJ labeled parents in Loudoun County as terrorists."On Fox News, Rep. Jim Jordan, the House Judiciary Committee's highest-ranking Republican, made a similar claim about Attorney General Merrick Garland.Since last year, Republicans hoping to use culture wars to boost their chances in the midterm elections have said that the Biden administration and Democrats have branded parents who protest at school board meetings as domestic terrorists.Read Full StoryMar-a-Lago raid prompts elected Republicans to openly acknowledge that Trump will likely run for president againWhile Republicans slam the FBI's raid of Mar-a-Lago, many are also finally admitting in public that Trump is likely to run for president again in 2024.Trump has hinted at the prospect for months now, leaving Republicans reluctant to comment or speculate on the matter. "President Trump is likely going to run again in 2024," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally, wrote on Twitter."Joe Biden is trying to use the FBI to subdue his top political opponent because they are afraid of him running in 2024," Republican Rep. Diana Harshbarger wrote on Twitter. Read Full StoryPence defends Trump and expresses 'deep concern' over FBI's Mar-a-Lago raidThen-President Donald Trump shakes then-Vice President Mike Pence's hand after a 2019 rally.Zach Gibson/Getty ImagesFormer Vice President Mike Pence defended Donald Trump after FBI agents raided Mar-a-Lago."I share the deep concern of millions of Americans over the unprecedented search of the personal residence of President Trump," Pence wrote on Twitter.He continued: "After years where FBI agents were found to be acting on political motivation during our administration, the appearance of continued partisanship by the Justice Department must be addressed."Read Full StoryTrump nominated the FBI Director who led Mar-A-Lago search: 'He will make us all proud'Former President Donald Trump nominated Christoper Wray for FBI Director in 2017.Brandon Bell/Getty Images, MANDEL NGAN/POOL/AFP via Getty ImagesChristopher Wray, the FBI director who authorized the Mar-a-Lago search was picked for the gig by then-President Donald Trump in 2017.Trump, at the time, called Wray a man of "impeccable credentials.""We will have a great FBI director. I think he's doing really well and we're very proud of that choice. I think I've done a great service to the country by choosing him," Trump said in a speech during a 2017 visit to France. "He will make us all proud, and I think someday we'll see that and hopefully someday soon."Now, Wray is feeling pressure from GOP lawmakers in the wake of Monday's raid. Read Full StoryRepublicans are fundraising off the FBI's raid of Trump's 'beautiful Florida home' at Mar-a-LagoShortly after the FBI searched former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home, Republicans and right-wing groups used the opportunity to boost political fundraising efforts.A volley of emails from GOP lawmakers, political action groups, and other organizations denounced the FBI's search warrant and slammed the Biden administration."Biden's FBI raided President Trump's beautiful Florida home," the Republican National Committee wrote in a fundraising email, adding that "it's hard to believe it but it's true." Read Full StoryLindsey Graham says 'nobody's above the law' after FBI raid, but added that he's 'suspicious' of the investigationSen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).Ting Shen - Pool/Getty ImagesSouth Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham voiced a balanced reaction in response to the FBI's search warrant of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home compared to some of his colleagues."We're a nation of laws. Nobody's above the law. That's for darn sure," the Republican told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. The Trump ally said, however, that he's "suspicious" of the Justice Department's investigation and called it "dangerous territory." Read Full StoryEx-RNC chairman calls Marjorie Taylor Greene a 'shitforbrains' Republican for demanding the FBI be defundedRep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from GeorgiaDrew Angerer/Getty ImagesMichael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, slammed Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia for saying the FBI should be defunded. After the FBI searched former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home, Greene tweeted "DEFUND THE FBI!"Steele quoted her tweet and said: "Trump failed to return classified docs requested by the National Archives. A federal judge issued a search warrant for probable cause of a crime. This is not some rando move by the FBI so you shitforbrains Republicans calling for 'defunding the FBI' for once try to be less stupid."Read Full StoryTrump family members react to FBI search, calling it 'political persecution'Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump.Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesMembers of the Trump family took to Twitter and Fox News to voice their response to the FBI's search of former president Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home."Biden's out of control DOJ is ripping this country apart with how they're openly targeting their political enemies," Donald Trump Jr. wrote. "This is what you see happen in 3rd World Banana Republics!!!"Eric Trump told Fox News on Monday night that he was the "guy who got the call," that the FBI was executing a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, calling it "political persecution.""Every day, we get another subpoena," he said. Read Full StoryA dozen House Republicans plan to dine with Trump in Bedminster on TuesdayFormer President Donald Trump is hosting a dozen of the most conservative House Republicans at his New Jersey golf club Tuesday night for a dinner meeting.Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Banks is reportedly leading the group, set to meet just one day after the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago.Read Full StoryTrump talked about his 'strange day' while calling into a tele-rally for Sarah Palin hours after the FBI raidFormer President Donald Trump campaigns for former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at a rally in Anchorage, Alaska on July 9, 2022.Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesAfter the raid on his Mar-a-Lago residence, former president Donald Trump called into a tele-rally for former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin — a long-time political ally who is now seeking an open House seat in the state's August 16 special election."Another day in paradise. This is a strange day. You probably all read about it," Trump said during a roughly 15-minute call, according to the Anchorage Daily News.Palin thanked Trump for checking in, despite the news of the raid.  Read Full StoryPelosi says FBI raid on Trump was a major step and that 'no person is above the law'—TODAY (@TODAYshow) August 9, 2022House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the FBI raid on former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home as a major step, and said that not even a former president is "above the law."She is the highest-ranking Democrat to comment on the search, which took place on Monday.Pelosi was interviewed about the Monday raid on NBC's "Today" show Tuesday, where she was asked by host Savannah Guthrie if the search struck her as a "pretty serious step" for the Department of Justice to take.Pelosi replied: "Yes I think it does."She said later in the interview that Democrats "believe in the rule of law, and that's what our country is about and no person is above the law, not even the president of the United States, not even a former president of the United States."Read Full StoryMichael Cohen was jubilant after the FBI searched Trump's home, says he is finally being 'held accountable'Michael Cohen in July 2018 in New York City.Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesMichael Cohen, Donald Trump's former personal attorney and fixer, posted a celebratory video after FBI agents conducted a search of the ex-president's property in Mar-a-Lago, Florida. As news broke of the raid Cohen posted a selfie of himself grinning on Twitter, and in a video later posted on TikTok spelled out what he thinks the development could mean for his former boss."I can promise you only one thing, that whatever information that it is that they took from him, it's information he didn't want exposed," he said.He said Trump would frequently stash away compromising information in places he thought it was "impervious." "Let's just all rejoice the fact that this man who has avoided, legitimately avoided, any responsibility for anything is now going to be held accountable," said Cohen. "And it goes right back to the democratic adage 'no one is above the law.'"Read Full StoryMary Trump says her uncle is panicked by FBI raid and never believed the DOJ would take actionMary Trump speaking on MSNBC on August 8, 2022MSNBCThe niece of former President Donald Trump, Mary Trump, said that he is in "panic" after the FBI raided his home in Florida late on Monday. Trump "may have been told it was coming," but he would not have believed that the FBI would actually do it, Mary Trump told MSNBC on Monday.She has for years been a vocal critic of her uncle, who has attacked her in turn.Mary said that the raid would have been "a bit of a shock" to Trump, citing what she, a psychologist, called his "narcissism and sense of entitlement.""He may have known, been told it was coming, but he could not possibly believe it was coming, because it never has. So I think that's where that panic is coming from."Read Full StoryKevin McCarthy threatens to investigate DOJ over Trump FBI raid if Republicans retake the HouseHouse Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty ImagesHouse Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy threatened to investigate the DOJ and Attorney General Merrick Garland, using powers the Republican Party would gain if it retakes the House in November.In a statement Tuesday, McCarthy denounced the search conducted by FBI agents in Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort."I've seen enough. The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization," McCarthy said in a statement."When Republicans take back the House, we will conduct immediate oversight of this department, follow the facts, and leave no stone unturned.""Attorney General Garland, preserve your documents and clear your calendar," McCarthy said.Read Full StoryA law forbidding presidents from destroying or mishandling records could be why FBI agents searched Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago homePolice direct traffic outside an entrance to former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate, Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in Palm Beach, Florida.AP Photo/Terry RennaThe FBI search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort appears to be over material that Trump brought back to Florida after leaving the White House.The search appears to be over material that Trump brought back to Florida after leaving the White House. That decision spurred a federal investigation, and likely the search on Monday, linked to the Presidential Records Act.Under the act, presidential records are public property and presidents are obliged to store them properly, and not to destroy them.Read Full StoryThese GOP lawmakers say they're pro law-enforcement but voted against giving congressional medals to police. Now they're excoriating the FBI on Trump's behalf.Former President Donald Trump and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene at the LIV Golf Invitational on July 30, 2022.Jared C. Tilton/LIV Golf via Getty ImagesIn June 2021, 21 Republican lawmakers stood in opposition to legislation that would have awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to police officers who risked their lives at the Capitol during the January 6 riot.On Monday, a number of these GOP lawmakers joined a chorus of voices asking for the FBI to be destroyed and defunded for executing a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago. Here's what these lawmakers said about the FBI's search of Mar-a-Lago — and how it contrasts with their pro-law enforcement stance. READ MORERepublicans rail against the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, calling for the FBI to be destroyed and defundedRepublican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona were among several Republican lawmakers calling for the FBI to be destroyed or defunded.Anna Moneymaker/Getty ImagesThe far-right faction of the Republican party is up in arms about the Federal Bureau of Investigation's search of Mar-a-Lago, calling for the agency to be defunded and destroyed. Trump ally and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was one of the first to tweet her disapproval of the search, posting on Twitter: "DEFUND THE FBI!"Colorado lawmaker Lauren Boebert tweeted that she wanted the GOP to "set up a Select Committee to investigate the FBI's politically-motivated raid on Mar-a-Lago and on ALL the fraudulent persecution of President Trump from our government."House Republicans' calls to defund and destroy a law enforcement organization stands in contrast to legislation their party introduced in May 2021 to "back the blue" in opposition to a progressive push to defund the police. As recently as May 2022, top-ranking Republicans like Rep. Elise Stefanik were still pushing the "back the blue" slogan — something that both Greene and Boebert have themselves staunchly supported.READ MORELawyers received instructions to secure Trump's document room months before the FBI search at Mar-a-LagoFormer President Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a rally on April 2, 2022, near Washington, Michigan.Scott Olson/Getty ImagesMonths before the raid on his Mar-a-Lago residence, former President Donald Trump's lawyers recieved instructions to "secure the room" in which he stored his documents, sources told CNN.The sources told CNN Trump aides added a padlock to his basement after investigators met with his lawyers at the Florida resort.Read MoreEric Trump says he was the 'guy who got the call' that the FBI was executing a search warrant at Mar-a-LagoEric Trump said on Monday night that he was the one who informed his father Mar-a-Lago was being searched.Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesTrump — speaking to Fox News host Sean Hannity — said he was "the guy that got the call this morning." "I called my father and let him know that it happened," Trump said. "So I was involved in this all day." After the search, Eric Trump complained to Hannity that he thought there is "no family in American history that has taken more arrows in the back than the Trump family." "Every day, we get another subpoena," Trump said. "That's what this is about today, to have 30 FBI agents — actually, more than that —descend on Mar-a-Lago give absolutely, you know, no notice. Go through the gate, start ransacking an office, ransacking a closet. You know, they broke into a safe. He didn't even have anything in the safe. I mean, give me a break." READ FULL STORYFeds likely obtained 'pulverizing' amount of evidence ahead of searching Trump's Mar-a-Lago home, legal experts sayFormer President Donald Trump speaks at a "Save America" rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on August 5, 2022.AP Photo/Morry GashFor months, as new details emerged about the end of the Trump administration, the Justice Department confronted criticism over its slow, cautious approach to investigating the former president.Again and again, Attorney General Merrick Garland met that criticism with what has almost become his personal mantra: The Justice Department, he says, will follow the "facts and the law."On Monday, the facts and the law led FBI agents to former President Donald Trump's home.Read Full StoryTrump's 2024 rivals are swooping in to support him, claiming the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago is politically-motivatedFlorida Gov. Ron DeSantis — largely thought of to be one of Trump's key rivals for the GOP presidential ticket in 2024 — tweeted in support of the former president.Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesTrump's potential rivals for a 2024 ticket quickly came to his defense on Monday night after the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, widely thought of to be one of Trump's key rivals in a 2024 GOP primary, tweeted his support for the former president around an hour after Trump's statement about the FBI search dropped on Truth Social. "The raid of MAL is another escalation in the weaponization of federal agencies against the Regime's political opponents, while people like Hunter Biden get treated with kid gloves," DeSantis tweeted, adding that he thought the US was becoming a "banana republic."DeSantis was referencing an ongoing investigation into Hunter Biden's finances. Biden has not been charged with a crime and denies any wrongdoing.READ FULL STORYTrump supporters protest the execution of a search warrant against the former president outside Mar-a-Lago and FBI headquartersSupporters of former President Donald Trump hold flags in front of his home at Mar-A-Lago on August 8, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida. The FBI raided the home to retrieve classified White House documents.Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty ImagesAfter the FBI executed a search warrant on Donald Trump's residence at Mar-a-Lago on Monday, supporters of the former president gathered outside the Florida resort and FBI headquarters to protest.Though it was initially unclear which of several pending investigations into the former president the warrant was related to, ABC News cited sources saying it was in connection to 15 boxes of potentially classified documents Trump took with him from the White House to Mar-a-Lago at the end of his presidency. Read Full StoryTrump was perched in Trump Tower as he decried 'unauthorized raid on my home' at Mar-a-Lago resort: CNNTrump Tower in ManhattanSpencer Platt / Getty ImagesFormer President Donald Trump was in the comfort of his Trump Tower in New York City as federal agents executed a search warrant on his home in Mar-A-Lago, Florida, according to CNN reporter Kaitlin Collins.The search warrant was carried out in the early hours of Monday morning and was first reported by Florida Politics. Trump confirmed the search warrant in a statement, calling it an "unauthorized raid on my home.""Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before," his statement said. "After working and cooperating with the relevant Government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate."Read Full StoryThe Biden White House was unaware that the FBI was going to search Trump's Mar-a-Lago home until the former president announced it on social mediaFormer President Donald Trump speaks to the press at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on November 22, 2018.Mandel Ngan / AFP via Getty ImagesThe Biden White House was unaware that the FBI was going to search former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home, White House officials said.The former president accused the bureau of prosecutorial misconduct in a statement and suggested the search was part of a politically motivated plot to stop him from running for president in 2024.A senior White House official told CBS News' Ed O'Keefe that the Biden administration wasn't made aware of the search warrant until Trump released his statement about it."No advance knowledge," the official said. "Some learned from old media, some from social media."Read Full StoryDonald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home was searched by the FBI. Take a look inside his exclusive resort that the public never sees.Donald Trump outside the entrance of Mar-a-Lago on December 21, 2016.Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty ImagesDuring former President Donald Trump's time in the White House, his Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach presidency exclusive resort was often referred to as "the winter White House."Now, it's just his house.Following the end of his presidential term, Trump decamped to the ornate resort. Mar-a-Lago has hosted a number of high-powered visitors over the years, as it has seemingly always served as the Trump family's gilded weekend getaway. Mar-a-Lago has served as a lavish backdrop to host important dignitaries with its elaborately decorated halls. It was built to impress.Case in point: the property was closed for 57 days amid the coronavirus pandemic after visitors like the press secretary to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Brazil's Chargé d'Affaires Ambassador Nestor Forster tested positive for the coronavirus in March.Here's a look inside the sprawling complex, which was built in the early 20th century, where the Trumps have hosted opulent holiday parties and watched Super Bowls alongside members of the exclusive private club.Read MoreTrump says FBI accessed his safe during raid at Mar-a-Lago: 'They even broke into my safe!'Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Hilton Anatole on August 06, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. CPAC began in 1974, and is a conference that brings together and hosts conservative organizations, activists, and world leaders in discussing current events and future political agendas.Brandon Bell/Getty ImagesFormer President Donald Trump said the FBI went through his safe when they executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago on Monday. "They even broke into my safe!" Trump said in a Monday statement confirming the search.Read Full StoryThe FBI executed a search warrant at Trump's Mar-a-Lago homeRepublican Presidential frontrunner Donald Trump speaks to the media at the Mar-A-Lago Club on March 1, 2016 in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump held the press conference after the closing of Super Tuesday polls in a dozen statesJohn Moore/Getty ImagesFederal agents descended on former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago property in Florida on Monday, Trump announced in a statement.The former president denounced the raid as politically motivated, although he himself appointed the FBI's director, Christopher Wray.Read Full StoryRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytAug 9th, 2022

Here"s the latest on Amazon"s ad business, which is $31 billion and growing

Everything to know about Amazon's moves to expand its advertising business and the growing competition it faces. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty ImagesAmazon has become the third-biggest digital advertising company behind Google and Facebook, hitting $31 billion in ad revenue in 2021. Its ad revenue charged ahead 18% in the second quarter, an exception to the otherwise dismal picture for online advertising.Under new CEO Andy Jassy, Amazon is shaking up its ad business to attract TV ad dollars. It's also seeking out new frontiers for ads — including placements in its physical Whole Foods stores. Its growth has also led Walmart, Instacart, Walgreens and other retailers to build their own retail media platforms.Here's the latest on Amazon's moves to expand its advertising business and the growing competition.Amazon's ad business is big and growingAdvertising is a tiny sliver of Amazon's business, but it's one of the company's fastest-growing areas, up 32% in the fourth quarter, when it broke out its ad business for the first time. The tech giant continues to cut into advertisers' search budgets that mostly go to Google. It's also ramping up its audio and video sales pitch.Read more: Amazon is building an advertising behemoth — and it's coming for FacebookAmazon is building a local advertising business in its latest attempt to dent Google and Facebook's ad dominanceExclusive: Amazon plans to sell digital advertising space inside its physical storesAmazon will spend an estimated $1.1B on sports content in 2022. Experts break down how sports fuels the rest of its business, and where it could go next.Inside Google's fierce Goliath-versus-Goliath fight against Amazon for shopping dollarsInsiders break down Amazon Advertising's aggressive new push to win over big marketers like P&G with a new sales structure and help from AWSAmazon's advertising revenue is booming. Here's exactly how much its ads cost.Who runs Amazon's ad businessAmazon has built a team of execs to pitch advertisers, including people like Alan Moss and Colleen Aubrey; and agency and brand vets who work directly with marketers.Read more: The 26 Amazon execs powering its $31 billion advertising businessMeet Amazon's behind-the-scenes leader who helped it take on Google and Facebook's advertising business and could become its next top ad execAlan Moss is spearheading Amazon's push to steal ad dollars from Facebook and Google. Insiders lay out his playbook for getting a slice of the $70 billion TV ad market.Meet the 18 power players who are leading Amazon's ambitions to take on heavyweights like Netflix and Hulu in mediaAmazon's competition for ad dollarsA Michaels store.Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty ImagesOther big retailers and delivery companies including Walmart, Albertsons, and Instacart are scrambling to build their own ad businesses, and hiring top talent to do so.Read more: Retailers are fueling an advertising explosion, and it could present a nightmare for brandsWalmart is 'so far ahead,' and Kroger is 'a grade above': Advertisers break down which retailers are winning the hot e-commerce ad market10 adtech firms companies like Walmart and Klarna are hiring to get a piece of the growing e-commerce advertising pie4 ways that Walmart, Instacart, and Target are copying Amazon to build billion-dollar ad businessesAmazon, Walmart, and Instacart are vying for advertising dollars — here's exactly how much they charge for adsHow advertisers navigate AmazonMarketers have complained that Amazon is tough to navigate, and its structure has spawned a cottage industry of specialty firms. Amazon has rolled out buying tools, boosted its presence at industry events, and hired big agency talent to cozy up to advertisers.Read more: Amazon is coming after Google and Meta's ad businesses with a major charm offensive to convince advertisers it can do more than just drive purchasesMeet 18 firms solving companies' giant problems selling and advertising on AmazonI'm an Amazon advertiser. Here's how I used my ad budget to pull in $100 million in sales in 2021.How to rank first with Amazon Ads, according to ex-Amazon ad sales managersAmazon is breeding a new crop of marketing startups, and investors are buying inThe complete guide to hiring an Amazon agencyAmazon is hiring ad talentAmazon is staffing up in advertising, but its tough interviewing process and distinct culture can make it hard for outsiders to break into the company.We talked to insiders about how to ace the interview process.Read more: Amazon has more than 3,300 advertising jobs open, many paying over $100,000. Here's how much you could make in sales, marketing, and more.Amazon is known for its ruthless interviewing process. We talked to insiders about how to get a job there.Amazon insiders explain the company's unique 'loop' interview system and how it's the ultimate test of whether someone will be a cultural fitAmazon is coming for Madison Avenue's talent, and it could be another blow to embattled agencies and ad-tech companiesRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytAug 8th, 2022

There Is A Giant Illusion For The Majority Of Market Commentators Choosing Not To See It

There Is A Giant Illusion For The Majority Of Market Commentators Choosing Not To See It By Michael Every of Rabobank Holy Illusions Hands up how many of you had 528K down as your US payrolls guess? Nobody, because the Bloomberg survey low was 50K and the high 325K. While there are question marks over these data given Covid --nearly 3m people weren’t/couldn’t work due to it-- and the “birth/death” model, the household survey saw jobs +179K; backwards payroll revisions were +28K; total employment was back to pre-pandemic levels, albeit with reallocation away from sectors such as leisure and hospitality (-1,214K) towards others, such as transport (+745K); the participation rate edged down to 62.1%, so the jobless rate fell to 3.5%, but even using pre-Covid participation rates unemployment would have been 5.4%, down from 5.5%; and average hourly earnings rose much faster than expected at 0.5% m-o-m, 5.2% y-o-y (and 6.0% annualized). If it’s an illusion, and look at full-time vs. part-time and multiple jobs as a clue... ... it still convinced Larry Summers to warn that if US CPI falls back this week, the Fed must not pivot, and Krugman to add it’d be “no justification for a pivot toward easier money.” Indeed, it now seems the Fed may go another 75bps in September, and Bowman implies afterwards as well perhaps, and the Wall Street Journal underlines, “Witness the small army of Fed officials who have fanned out to warn markets that the Chairman didn’t mean what he supposedly wasn’t saying last week.” In short, the illusion of a Fed dovish pivot is dispelled, with 2-year Treasury yields up 16bp to 3.23% Friday, and 10s up 14bp to 2.83%. More to come: or record yield curve inversion. Add a Fed pivot to “transitory” inflation on the list of illusions fading for the same underlying reason: the global system is crumbling. They join EU energy, economic, and foreign policy, as the German regulator calls for 20% cuts in household gas usage, and the West’s ‘Great Illusion’ that war just can’t happen (to it) in the modern world. On which, Ukraine just got another $1bn in US arms as a new phase of the war looms around Kherson: a counter-attack appears imminent. However, don’t be under the illusion that the US can keep up that pace of arms supply - and its stocks can’t be replaced quickly once depleted. The same is true for Russia, and in terms of men, but their media says North Korea might strike a deal to send 100,000 soldiers to fight in Ukraine in exchange for food and energy(!) If so, the war escalates further, and the EU energy outlook darkens further. NATO member Turkey on Friday also struck a deal with Russia to deepen economic ties: that is a terribly muddied picture for the EU and US as they try to isolate Moscow. However, illusions abound on all sides: Russia just released a video aimed at attracting people to move there due to its ‘hospitality, vodka, and an economy that can withstand thousands of sanctions’. Elsewhere, Reuters warns Chinese military exercises around Taiwan could disrupt key shipping lanes, and Taipei states they “simulate an attack” on its main island, drawing condemnation from the G7, but Russian support. China has now halted: communication with US military theatre leaders; defence meetings; maritime security dialogue; and co-operation over illegal migration, criminal justice, transnational crime, narcotics, and the climate - the US says this “punishes the world." The White House is now leaning on Congress to delay the bipartisan Taiwan Policy Act of 2022, which designates it a major non-NATO ally, provides $4.5bn in military aid, upgrades its international status, and allows the imposition of sanctions, including SWIFT bans, on major Chinese financial institutions. As the Carnegie Endowment think-tank notes, “The US and China are seriously talking past each other…That disconnect will lead to a very unstable new baseline.” Linking back to today’s title, Friday saw the release of ‘Holy Illusions’, a report from a key think-tank backing UK PM candidate Truss. It argues, “Just as in the 1970s, the country faces many interconnected, serious but superficially very different problems.” True. Controversially, it diagnoses that “The most significant underlying economic problem… is the malign consequences of low to negative interest rates over a prolonged period.”  Artificially low rates, it says, have “gradually prevented the normal mechanisms of a market economy from working properly… there has been a greater and greater search for yield on riskier and riskier assets, with everything that follows upon that, notably, market instability, huge asset price inflation, and inequality. The lack of rewards to enterprise and the ease with which fundamentally unproductive “zombie” companies can be maintained have made it difficult to generate those normal improvement mechanisms of a market economy which drive productivity and growth.” It’s hard to disagree with that Austrian and Marxist assessment. The report then says other UK problems are manifold: “Implausible energy policies”; over-regulation, antipathy to risk; “Unsustainable” welfare; a shrinking labour force; a declining birth-rate (an issue in all major economies, except one); “Education systems that don’t educate”; and, it claims, high immigration. It warns that if current UK growth rates continue --and this was presumably before the BOE’s latest awful assessment-- then by 2035 the likes of Poland will “overtake” the UK: will they then import British plumbers? It unsurprisingly argues Brexit is not an issue, even if it means short-term costs (and clearly more immigration is not on the cards). It says the UK isn’t willing or able to do anything with the “full democracy” Brexit grants it, as “Our governing class seems to have forgotten how to govern, how to guide a state, and how to set a goal and direction of travel.” Then --perhaps contradicting itself for some readers-- it argues, “Given this set of daunting problems… there really ought to be strong political movements… to analyse and begin to deal with them. That is not the case. Instead we see the reverse - a refusal to get to grips with the problems or even to acknowledge them. It is easier to ignore the most pressing economic and societal issues of the day, pretend they don’t exist, or claim they will be solved automatically as normal conditions return. We are, it seems, studiously pretending to be asleep.” Again, no arguments here. To show it is not like the others, it dares to ask, “What is to be done?” - and it tells us government must: “Convince the public that change is needed. The public must come to feel that we have taken a wrong path and to react against it.” They are already there! Just as we have mortgage strikes in China, we may see energy strikes in the UK; and some warn of a looming ‘winter of discontent. (And don’t think Putin doesn’t see this too, and won’t act accordingly.) “Show the electorate an alternative,” which is “to increase the productive capacity of our economy (because without that other problems simply cannot be solved)”. They are with you! But here comes the rub. What does that mean on energy? Silence. Moreover, the government must “persuade the public… that collectivist, socialist solutions are incapable of achieving that.” But how do you get the private sector to invest productively when other governments will? See ‘how the US gave away a breakthrough battery technology to China’, because the inventor “talked to almost all major investment banks; none of them [wanted to] invest in batteries," as they “wanted a return on their investments faster than the batteries would turn a profit.” Will higher rates, lower taxes, and deregulation force banks to make loans to productive rather than “fictitious capital”? Austrians say yes: Marxists say not, and with the better track record; and they add that even productive loans will just be made abroad, where it is cheaper to invest. That gaping theoretical/policy hole is more evident when we are then told the government must “persuade the public that this alternative route is actually possible; that [it] has a plan to get the country onto it; that continuing on the current path will simply make the inevitable correction measures more painful; and that failure to take such measures will mean a materially worse outcome. [It must] make this alternative politically feasible and hence potentially attractive.” --But what alternative?!-- Its conclusion avoids the answer in saying that: “A successful nation state needs market economics to create prosperity, and requires solidarity and a clear sense of identity to sustain itself. A reform programme must be similarly broad-based. It should reject the artificial polarity between the “market”  --“right wing” economics and economic globalisation-- and “society” --“left wing” statism and solidarity-- but recognise instead that running a successful country involves elements of both.” It just doesn’t say how beyond rates, taxes, and fostering ‘national unity’: yet the latter alone was *wrongly* presumed by Smith and Ricardo to stop capitalists investing abroad at all, which we just edit out of our textbooks! If only we could edit it out of our financial flows so easily. Ironically, the report also says, ”the political difficulty is that governments and politicians have not for many years set out the reality of how economies work and how prosperity is created. Levels of understanding are low.” Yes, they are: if it was as simple as ‘getting the state out of the way’, China would not be an economic superpower and Afghanistan might be. Yet the underlying message that we been ‘getting GDP wrong’, and we can’t get it right by only focusing on GDP is arguably very valid, as is the criticism of relying on low rates policy. We *do* need a higher common purpose, and higher rates, and others are saying similar things: here is an example arguing, “Without that, any aspiring state is just a gated community for the working wealthy, much like the ones for old retirees in South Florida.” It’s just that we need *more* than that structurally to boot, and ‘Holy Illusions’ still seems to cling to its own in avoiding that conclusion. It *could* be seen as backing a neo-Hamiltonian free market behind high tariff barriers, with industrial policy, which was how the US (and China) developed. Yet that mercantilist model is also an illusion for the UK and others not large enough for economies of scale and a modern army, especially as large rivals *are* state-backed and have one; and as high debt levels logically require MMT and higher interest rates, if just to pay for that military. The flurry of legislation coming out of the US is not a million miles away from some of those ideas and developments. But if we need ‘Hamilton’ in blocs, the UK still just rejected being a member of one. Does that mean it will end up in a new Holy Anglosphere? Some say that’s no illusion, other that it is. Regardless, the above still implies global national-security/commodity/supply-chain/tech/values fragmentation ahead; and higher interest rates; and lower asset prices; and more productive, higher-wage investment - as we had already projected as a 2030 scenario. Unless that’s just my own holy illusion. What isn’t is that if you don’t keep track of these seemingly-esoteric developments, you won’t be in a position to call where rates are going - which is why nobody in markets called three (or four?) back-to-back 75bps Fed hikes this year. That was “not how the political economy works”. But the political economy had changed. To paraphrase Keynes, “When the facts change, I change my forecast. What do you do?” That is what you should be focused on: not the illusion of the relevance/positivity of Chinese July trade data released Sunday, which showed exports up 18% y-o-y and imports only 2.3%, for a staggering trade surplus of $101.3bn. Does anyone think this $1.2 trillion annualised figure is good news for anyone: not China (where it means no demand); not globally (where it means no local supply). There is a giant illusion for the majority of market commentators choosing not to see it. Tyler Durden Mon, 08/08/2022 - 09:04.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeAug 8th, 2022

Why Do South American Drug Runners Keep Getting Caught With Uranium?

Why Do South American Drug Runners Keep Getting Caught With Uranium? Authored by J.G. Martinez D via The Organic Prepper (emphasis ours), As Russia, China, and other nations hostile to the US boost their presence within South America, should it come as a surprise to find uranium being trafficked by South American drug runners? There are reasons to believe that this has been happening under the table for some time now, and it is not good at all. Venezuela has very close ties with Iran. The current rulers of Venezuela exhibit openly close and strong ties with countries like Iran. It is not just a question of if they will build warheads with nuclear capabilities. Maybe they even already have them. Anyone believing that they will not dare to use these warheads is wrong. The way a theocracy thinks is much different from our Western approach to life. Eleven thousand virgins are waiting. Venezuela, showing a growing hostile attitude towards the USA and the West, has collaborated actively with the Iranian theocracy for over ten years. Back then, the Venezuelan administrators did not support just Iran. They were already starting to improve ties with the different flavors of Colombian guerrilla too. It seems that, no matter what that group is, if they defy the USA and the West, they deserve a place at the table. The citizens of Venezuela know their country could become a warfare launching pad, but there is not much they can do. They are under an iron grip and are being stomped on with increasing violence as time goes by. Even though the mainstream media doesn’t show it, this is the reality here. South American uranium trafficking is not merely rumor. This is an illegal activity and a real threat to world stability. Anywhere. The coincidence of rogue Iranians shutting down the cameras inside their enrichment plant according to the compulsory IAEA agreements with the recent trafficking events seems to remain ignored by the media. Who receives the benefits? If a plant is used to produce radioactive materials for civilian use, why shut down the cameras in the first place? Iran, China, and Russia seem to believe that this country will be easy to occupy and become a stronghold to threaten the USA domain over the Caribbean Sea and Central America, including Panama. It seems Colombia is lost now, under the control of the former guerrilla member G. Petro. The shady result of this election is nothing positive for the future of the Americas. (The following Spanish link exhibits the location of the radioactive mineral.) Bolivia too has been on the Iranian radar for a long time as well. Since 2006, at least. Bolivia’s strong man, Evo Morales, is another hardcore communist line in the region and holds a strong hate speech line against “Yankee Imperialism.” And Bolivia is rich in uranium and lithium, both considered strategic materials. There are basically about six main areas where uranium is located there. While not all of these reservoirs are easily accessible, those easier to exploit are in the region of Tachira, a frontier area under the control of the socialist party and Cojedes. The other regions need access by air, using helicopters. Interestingly, the last studies of the radioactive levels of the mines started in 2019. Since 1998, not even one official position for the exploitation and peaceful use of this material went public. The concerning part is that there is no possible way to know how much uranium is being extracted, traded, and where it is going/has gone. Even common criminals here have been detained for uranium trafficking. These are people without any training or special gear. They possessed drugs for dealing, too. Uranium was just the icing on the cake for them. How many people are trafficking these materials? Is there any way to find this out? How is uranium trafficking even possible? This is not the sole incident either. In March 2020, six men in Venezuelan were detained for uranium trafficking as well. Regarding the alliances with troublesome friends, the ties with these rogue states interested in the forbidden materials are not new. The Ahmadinejad speech in 2012, literally saying “our weapons are human values,” is enough to raise even deeper concerns. They forged “scientific” and “technological” alliances, but none of this money or agreements seems to have worked to improve the quality of life and general welfare of the Venezuelan people. Opening huge supermarkets with Iranian products is not exactly going to benefit anyone else but the owners. The car factory here is now in ruins, as many others built or supplied by the Iranians are left behind to rot. So no, the “technological” cooperation approach is not true. It hasn’t produced a vehicle in many years, when it was once one of the flag projects of the Hugo Era “to get rid of the Yankee trades” and “start the technological independence process.” According to local sources, none of the projects, including the affordable housing (with cracked buildings not surviving even 15 years), offered results in valuable improvements and additions to Venezuelan society. (Don’t want to starve after an EMP? Check out our free QUICKSTART Guide to what to eat when the power goes out.) For decades Venezuela was a strong ally of the USA. However, the hate speech against the USA undermined this relationship, detonating and blowing it to pieces. It allowed the influx of former URSS soviet weaponry and use the country’s vast unpopulated areas to train terrorist groups. However, compared to the real possibility of Iran using uranium illegally extracted from South America to manufacture weaponry, this is a minor issue. The reality is in plain sight.   The recent detention of an aircraft in Argentina and Chile, one of them piloted by a Qud Force high-rank official, adds fuel to an already white-hot situation. Sospechan de terroristas iraníes en Chile y Latinoamérica en aviones venezolanos: Parlamentarios piden investigar vuelos   Another Venezuelan-Iranian plane landed in Santiago, and an official from the Government of Chile had to give explanations to Congress.  In Chile, the opposition presses to open an investigation into another Venezuelan-Iranian plane.  Venezuelan plane in Chile generates “suspicion” of the authorities Exclusive: Iranians On Plane Seized In Argentina Were On ‘Attack’ Mission (iranintl.com) Argentina grounds Iran-linked Venezuelan cargo plane | Reuters How about we connect the dots? The plane belonged to a company sanctioned previously and blacklisted, Mahan Airlines. There exists an active, illegal operation of radioactive mineral extraction conducted by unknown people. There is an aerial bridge working the Tehran-Caracas route. Iran ships without any information about what they transport to come and go as they please. (Here’s an Iranian ship with unknown cargo.) How a direct flight connection economically benefits both countries, when none of their people are remotely wealthy enough to have a business or even visit Iran, is out of the question. A total lack of transparency is the signature of the operations in this Iran-Venezuela relationship. (Want uninterrupted access to The Organic Prepper? Check out our paid-subscription newsletter.) If a soft approach continues, the consequences for the West could be catastrophic. The lax positioning of the US politicians is unbelievable. Arguably, Iran’s major interest in Venezuela is to get the uranium out.  For argument’s sake, let’s say for a moment that, all of the uranium is not going to the plants nor end in the facilities to manufacture nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, this uranium is effectively used as a currency to turn around international sanctions. They use the country as an alternative financial center in the shadows. The lack of serious opposition from the US to the Iranian theocracy allows for a complicated situation in the medium term. How this is going to evolve is yet to see. The threat is a real one. It is there and will not go anywhere unless severe actions start to show the world will not tolerate a nuclear Iran. Tyler Durden Wed, 07/27/2022 - 18:15.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJul 27th, 2022

The Talented Mr. Pottinger: The US Intelligence Agent Who Pushed Lockdowns

The Talented Mr. Pottinger: The US Intelligence Agent Who Pushed Lockdowns Authored by Michael Senger via 'The New Normal' Substack, In 1948, the US House of Representatives received a tip from a man named Whittaker Chambers that several federal officials had been working for the communists. One of these officials was more than happy to appear before Congress to clear his name—a leading State Department and United Nations representative named Alger Hiss. The rakish Hiss was the exemplary American statesman: Polite, pedigreed, well-spoken, and a Harvard man to boot. During the 1945 United Nations conference, the Chinese delegation had proposed the creation of a new international health organization. After the Chinese failed to get a resolution passed, Hiss recommended establishing the organization by declaration, and the World Health Organization was born. In Congress, Hiss coolly denied the allegations and denounced his deadbeat accuser for the libelous claims. The House came away newly reassured that the State Department was in excellent hands. (Spoiler alert: He was then and always had been a communist.) The next year, intelligence leaks from the federal service led to the Soviet Union’s first successful nuclear test, ending the security afforded by America’s nuclear monopoly 15 years earlier than experts expected. Shortly thereafter, Kim Il-Sung and Chairman Mao used the cover of Soviet nuclear weapons to invade South Korea. The ensuing war claimed over 3 million lives and resulted in the permanent recognition of the nation of North Korea. Around this time, a little-known Congressman from California’s 12th district named Richard M. Nixon pressed Chambers for more information. Chambers reluctantly led Tricky Dick to a package of State Department materials he had hidden in a pumpkin patch—including notes in Hiss’s own writing. Alger Hiss became the most high-level American official ever convicted in connection with working for the communists. 2022 To be honest, I barely knew who Matt Pottinger was until I read that he’d appointed Deborah Birx as White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator in her bizarrely self-incriminating memoir Silent Invasion, which reads like it was written by the Chinese Communist Party itself. There’s little information about Pottinger’s role in Covid online. Yet Pottinger is portrayed as a leading protagonist in three different pro-lockdown books on America’s response to Covid-19: The Plague Year by the New Yorker’s Lawrence Wright, Nightmare Scenario by the Washington Post’s Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Chaos Under Heaven by the Washington Post’s Josh Rogin. Pottinger’s singularly outsized role in pushing for alarm, shutdowns, mandates, and science from China in the early months of Covid is extremely well-documented. Pottinger’s enormous influence during Covid is especially surprising not only because of his absence from online discussion about these events, but because of who he is. The son of leading Department of Justice official Stanley Pottinger, Matt Pottinger graduated with a degree in Chinese studies in 1998 before going to work as a journalist in China for seven years, where he reported on topics including the original SARS. In 2005, Pottinger unexpectedly left journalism and obtained an age waiver to join the US Marine Corps. Over several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pottinger became a decorated intelligence officer and met General Michael Flynn, who later appointed him to the National Security Council (NSC). Pottinger was originally in line to be China Director, but Flynn gave him the more senior job of Asia Director. Despite being new to civilian government, Pottinger outlasted many others in Trump’s White House. In September 2019, Pottinger was named Deputy National Security Advisor, second only to National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien. Pottinger is best known as a China hawk, but a smart and sophisticated one. He’s been ahead of the curve in calling out China’s increasingly aggressive geopolitical stance, articulating this challenge with near-perfect eloquence. As Politico writes, “While hawks like Bannon love his tough views toward China, even Democrats call his views basically mainstream. Still, some foreign policy experts…wonder what a nice guy like him is doing in a place like this.” “He’s a very effective bureaucratic player, which is saying something because he’s never had a policy job before,” the New York Times agreed. “Matt has an extraordinary sense of caution that, ‘Let’s not push something unless the president clearly has approved it.’ This is different from other members of White House staff,” the Washington Post admired. While many Trump administration officials have floundered since Trump left the White House, “things are going well for Pottinger,” Vox gushed. “[T]hat subject matter expertise—plus the patina afforded by resigning on January 6—has helped Pottinger, a former journalist, expertly navigate the post-Trump landscape. He even emerged as the White House hero of the initial Covid-19 chaos in New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright’s chronicle of The Plague Year… One reason that Matt Pottinger was welcomed back into the establishment is that, unlike some of Trump’s unconventional appointees, he had already been a part of the elite.” From the center-right to the center-left and the far right to the far left, it’s tough to find anyone on the Beltway short on praise for Matt Pottinger. Everything about Pottinger is silky smooth. Between the lines of glowing coverage are not-so-subtle winks and nudges that he’d make an excellent candidate for higher office. 2020 1. Ratcheting Up Alarm via “Asymptomatic Spread” In January 2020, Pottinger unilaterally called meetings and ratcheted up alarm about the new coronavirus in the White House based on information from his own sources in China, despite having no official intelligence to back up his alarmism, breaching protocol on several occasions. In Washington, Matt Pottinger was first made aware of the new coronavirus after China’s CDC Director called US CDC Director Robert Redfield to report it on January 3, 2020. According to Pottinger, he grew increasingly alarmed due to the rumors he saw on Chinese social media. As Wright reports: He was struck by the disparity between official accounts of the novel coronavirus in China, which scarcely mentioned the disease, and Chinese social media, which was aflame with rumors and anecdotes. Pottinger therefore authorized the first interagency meeting on the coronavirus based on these social media reports. There was no official intelligence to prompt the meeting. On January 14, Pottinger authorized a briefing for the NSC staff by the State Department and the Department of Health and Human Services, along with CDC director Redfield. That first interagency meeting to discuss the situation in Wuhan wasn’t prompted by official intelligence; in fact, there was practically none of that. On January 27, 2020, Trump’s staff attended the first full meeting on the coronavirus in the White House Situation Room. Unbeknownst to those in attendance, Pottinger had unilaterally called the meeting. Others urged calm, but Pottinger immediately began pushing for travel bans. As Abutaleb writes: Few people in the room knew it, but Pottinger had actually called the meeting. The Chinese weren’t providing the US government much information about the virus, and Pottinger didn’t trust what they were disclosing anyway. He had spent two weeks scouring Chinese social media feeds and had uncovered dramatic reports of the new infectious disease suggesting that it was much worse than the Chinese government had revealed. He had also seen reports that the virus might have escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China. There were too many unanswered questions. He told everyone in the Sit Room that they needed to consider enacting a travel ban immediately: ban all travel from China; shut it down… [Pottinger] spent several days calling some of his old contacts in China, doctors who would tell him the truth. And they had told him that things were bad—and only going to get worse. Pottinger’s discourse was measured but he conveyed the gravity of the threat. He said that the virus was spreading fast. He said that dramatic actions would need to be taken, which was why the government should consider banning travel from China to the United States until it had a better understanding of what was going on. As he continued, people sat up in their chairs. This was not the “we’ve got everything handled” message that Azar had conveyed just minutes earlier. As Wright documents, the health officials thought travel restrictions would be futile. Predictably, the public health representatives were resistant, too: viruses found ways to travel no matter what. Moreover, at least 14,000 passengers from China were arriving in the U.S. every day; there was no feasible way to quarantine them all. These arguments would join a parade of other public health verities that would be jettisoned during the pandemic. Among those present, Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney appears to have been the only one to express skepticism of Pottinger’s information. As Abutaleb writes: Mulvaney intervened to wrap things up. He could tell that Pottinger and a few others were calling for a dramatic change, one that was an anathema to his libertarian instincts. He was pretty skeptical of Pottinger’s “sources” in China, too. They weren’t going to be setting US policy based on what someone had heard from their “friend” thousands of miles away. Mulvaney reiterated that they would reconvene the next day to discuss matters again before anything was settled. He warned attendees not to leak any details of the meeting to the media. The next morning, January 28, 2020, Pottinger says he spoke to a doctor in China who told him the new coronavirus would be as bad as the 1918 Spanish flu, and that half the cases were asymptomatic. As Rogin writes: The next morning, Pottinger had a conversation with a very high-level doctor in China, one who had spoken with health officials in several provinces, including Wuhan. This was a trusted source who was in a position to know the ground truth. “Is this going to be as bad as SARS in 2003?” he asked the doctor, whose name must remain secret for his own protection. “Forget SARS in 2003,” the doctor replied, “this is 1918.” The doctor told Pottinger half the cases were asymptomatic and the government must have known all about it. Later that same day, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien brought Pottinger into the Oval Office, where he seized the first opportunity to repeat to the President what the doctor in China had told him that morning. “This is the single greatest national security crisis of your presidency and it’s now unfolding,” O’Brien told the president. “It’s going to be 1918,” Pottinger told Trump. “Holy fuck,” the president replied. Wright goes into more detail on this meeting, in which Pottinger interjected to alarm the President: Later that day, the national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, brought Pottinger into the Oval Office, where the president was getting his daily intelligence briefing. Far down the list of threats was the mysterious new virus in China. The briefer didn’t seem to take it seriously. O’Brien did. “This will be the biggest national security threat you will face in your presidency,” he warned. “Is this going to be as bad or worse than SARS in 2003?” Trump asked. The briefer responded that it wasn’t clear yet. Pottinger, who was sitting on a couch, jumped to his feet. He had seen enough high-level arguments in the Oval Office to know that Trump relished clashes between agencies. “Mr. President, I actually covered that,” he said, recounting his experience with SARS and what he was learning now from his sources—most shockingly, that more than half of the spread of the disease was by asymptomatic carriers. China had already curbed travel within the country, but every day thousands of people were traveling from China to the U.S.—half a million in January alone. “Should we shut down travel?” the president asked. “Yes,” Pottinger said unequivocally. That same day, Pottinger and the White House staff reconvened in the Situation Room. Pottinger recalls that he’d been especially inspired into action by Xi Jinping’s lockdown of Wuhan and by the hospital that the CCP claims to have built in 10 days, but did not actually build. As Abutaleb reports: A few hours later, Pottinger and other government officials filed back into the Situation Room. Pottinger knew he was going to be outnumbered. Mulvaney and his allies didn’t want to allow the NSC to do anything that might be too disruptive. Blocking travel from China would be an unprecedented intervention. And over what? Five cases of the sniffles in the United States?… On January 23, China announced that it was locking down Wuhan, a city of 11 million people. The shutdown was extended to several more cities in the coming days, with travel prohibited inside much of the country. Tens of millions of people were effectively locked in their homes. The Chinese were rapidly building an entire hospital in Wuhan that was completed within days. Everyone in the country was wearing a mask. People in hazmat suits took passengers’ temperatures before anyone was allowed into the subway. China had gone from reluctantly admitting that there had been a few cases of person-to-person spread to shutting down the world’s second largest economy. If the virus had brought the world’s most populous country to a standstill, some top US officials, especially Pottinger, knew they should be doing more. As Deputy National Security Advisor, Pottinger was supposed to “avoid arguing forcefully for any particular outcome,” so he brought Peter Navarro to make his arguments for him. Abutaleb continues: But as deputy national security advisor, Pottinger was in an awkward position. He was supposed to be chairing the meeting, which meant that his job was to solicit input from others in the room and avoid arguing forcefully for any particular outcome. That fact tied his hands. He needed someone else to make the more pointed parts of his argument for him. Someone who would stand up to everyone else in the room unflinchingly. He knew just the person: a reviled troublemaker named Peter Navarro, the director of the White House National Trade Council… Pottinger’s plan to use Navarro as his mouthpiece seemed to work initially, but then Navarro kept going. And going… They needed to ban travel, and they needed to do it now. Pottinger had been waiting for an opening. He told his colleagues that he had come across some alarming information: Chinese officials were no longer able to contact trace the virus. In other words, it was so widespread that they couldn’t determine where people had contracted it. And he relayed the Chinese suspicions about asymptomatic spread: people who seemed perfectly healthy were transmitting the virus, not just in China but potentially everywhere, including in the United States. Once again, Mulvaney was skeptical of Pottinger. Three months prior, Navarro had been caught citing himself as an expert source using the pseudonym “Ron Vara”: Mulvaney couldn’t believe what he was witnessing. Pottinger and Navarro had nearly pulled off a policy ambush. “Look,” Mulvaney told someone at the meeting, “I’ve got Pottinger with a friend of his in Hong Kong as a source. I’ve got Navarro, who makes up his sources, and then on the other side of the equation I’ve got Kadlec and Fauci and Redfield, three experts, who say not to shut down flights just yet.” A health expert pointed out that the statistic Pottinger had reported from the doctor in China about asymptomatic spread couldn’t be true. One of the government health experts pulled Pottinger aside. The stat Pottinger had cited, the one about half of all people with the virus being asymptomatic, there’s just no way that can be true, the person said. No one has ever heard of a coronavirus similar to SARS or MERS whose spread can be driven in part by asymptomatic carriers. That would be a game changer. On February 1, Mulvaney tried to rein Pottinger in. As Rogin reports: Concerned about the political implications, Mulvaney tried to rein in Pottinger. He took O’Brien aside and told him, “You’ve got to get Pottinger under control.” Pottinger was too young, Mulvaney said, and too immature to be deputy national security adviser. Mulvaney was among the most skeptical of all the White House officials that the virus threat was real. In late February, as the markets tanked, Mulvaney said the media was exaggerating the threat in an effort to bring down President Trump, calling it the “hoax of the day.” As he prepared the White House’s first budget to respond to the emerging crisis, Mulvaney pegged the total cost at $800 million. (Mulvaney was pushed out in early March.) 2. Pottinger’s Crusade for Universal Masking In February 2020, Pottinger, who has no background in science or public health, began a months-long campaign to popularize universal masking and travel quarantines in response to the coronavirus based on information from his own sources in China. Beginning in February 2020, Pottinger began a crusade for Americans to adopt universal masking in response to the new coronavirus based on recommendations from his own sources in China. As Abutaleb writes: Back in February, Matt Pottinger had relayed what he had hoped would be received as good news by the Coronavirus Task Force. His contacts in China had found a way to significantly slow the virus’s spread: face coverings. Pottinger began wearing a mask to work in early March to convince his White House colleagues to take up the practice. A mask, however, could significantly stem transmission, Pottinger argued. If people’s noses and mouths were covered, they would emit far fewer respiratory droplets, lowering the risk of infecting others. Pottinger began wearing a mask to work in early March. But he didn’t wear a simple cloth face covering; he wore what other White House aides thought was a gas mask. He looked like a lunatic, some snickered, and it reinforced his reputation as an alarmist. One staffer described him as “being at a hundred” as early as January (on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of concern). Pottinger, who has no background in science or public health, pushed for mask mandates in the White House and for staff to be quarantined if they traveled outside Washington. Having lived in China during the SARS outbreak, he saw the importance of the speed with which Asian countries had mobilized. In early February, he recommended that NSC staffers who traveled outside Washington—even to other parts of the United States—quarantine before returning to work. He also wanted NSC staff to telework when possible, limit in-person meetings, restrict the number of people who could be in a room at one time, and be required to wear masks. That struck many White House aides as absurd. There were just a handful of known cases at the time; the virus was barely a blip on most people’s radars. No one else was changing their workplace standards… Pottinger urged the adoption of universal masking as had been ordered by “governments in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.” Pottinger pointed to a handful of Asian countries where the use of face coverings was universal. The governments in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong had ordered their citizens to wear masks with seemingly indisputable results. Pottinger saw no “downside” in universal masking, though there was no data and research to show it was effective. Pottinger’s heart sank as he saw the tweet and the ensuing messages. What was the downside in having people cover their faces while they waited for more data and research about how effective masks might be? Pottinger proposed delivering a mask to every mailbox in America. As Wright reports: Pottinger and Robert Kadlec, an assistant secretary at Health and Human Services, came up with an idea to put masks in every mailbox in America. Hanes, the underwear company, offered to make antimicrobial masks that were machine washable. “We couldn’t get it through the task force,” Pottinger told his brother. “We got machine-gunned down before we could even move on it.” Masks were still seen as useless or even harmful by the administration and even public health officials. Matt Pottinger’s crusade for the adoption of universal masking based on information from his own sources in China is especially peculiar because, as of the time of this writing, though there are hundreds of pictures of Pottinger online, there does not appear to be a single one in which he is wearing a mask anywhere on the Internet. 3. Popularizing Shutdowns In January 2020, Pottinger popularized shutdowns within the White House using a dubious study on the 1918 flu pandemic comparing outcomes between Philadelphia and St. Louis, a month before this study received any significant media attention. If you live in the United States, you probably remember the ludicrous study that made the rounds among major media outlets in March 2020 comparing outcomes in Philadelphia and St. Louis during the 1918 Spanish flu. According to the study, St. Louis canceled its annual parade, closed schools, and discouraged gatherings in 1918, while Philadelphia did not, so Philadelphia was punished when thousands of residents died of flu over the coming weeks. Therefore, these media outlets argued, it somehow logically followed that we should shut down the entire United States economy in 2020. One man who was several weeks ahead of media outlets in citing this claptrap was Matt Pottinger. As Wright reports, Pottinger began popularizing the idea of shutdowns within the White House by circulating this study among his White House colleagues on January 31, 2020. Matt Pottinger handed out a study of the 1918 flu pandemic to his colleagues in the White House, indicating the differing outcomes between the experiences of Philadelphia and St. Louis—a clear example of the importance of leadership, transparency, and following the best scientific counsel. 4. Appointing Deborah Birx as White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Beginning in January 2020, Pottinger began petitioning for Deborah Birx to be appointed as White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator. Birx then embarked on a months-long scorched earth campaign for lockdowns that were as long and strict as possible across the United States. On January 28, 2020, Pottinger began to reach out to Deborah Birx to have her come to the White House to lead the response to the Coronavirus. As Birx recalls in her book: On January 28, after meeting with Erin Walsh to solidify the planning and schedule for the upcoming African Diplomatic Corps State Department meeting, I received a text from Yen Pottinger. Aside from being the wife of my friend Matt, the deputy national security advisor, Yen was also a former colleague at the CDC and a trusted friend and neighbor… Matt had apologized for the short notice and said he hoped we could meet face-to-face. Yen arranged so that I could meet him in the West Wing, and once we were both there, Matt got to the point quickly. He offered me the position of White House spokesperson on the virus. Abutaleb goes into more detail on Birx’s relationship with Pottinger. Pottinger was married to one of Birx’s subordinates who’d developed a widely-used HIV test at the CDC. [Birx] made a number of powerful connections along the way. When she became head of the CDC’s Division of Global HIV/AIDS, one of her subordinates was a bright virologist named Yen Duong, who developed a widely used HIV test while working at the agency. Duong would eventually marry a Wall Street Journal reporter turned marine named Matt Pottinger, a connection that would eventually bring Birx into Trump’s orbit. According to Pottinger and Birx, he pleaded with her over several weeks to head the Coronavirus Task Force, and she reluctantly agreed. The hero we didn’t need. As Birx recalls in her book: It is March 2, 2020. I’ve just flown in overnight from South Africa to take on the role of response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, a job I didn’t seek but felt compelled to accept. I’m physically tired but mentally alert. After weeks of urging from Matthew Pottinger— President Trump’s deputy national security advisor, a task force member himself, and the husband of a former colleague and friend of mine—I finally gave in to Matt’s request that I come on board to help with the response to the coronavirus outbreak… Matt Pottinger, was one of the good ones in the Trump White House. A former journalist turned highly-decorated U.S. Marine who served as an intelligence officer for part of his time, Matt had deep experience in China (including during the 2002–2003 SARS outbreak there) and was fluent in Mandarin. Matt took a position in the National Security Council in the earliest stage of the Trump administration, while still serving in the Marine Reserves. As documented in her bizarre tell-all book, which received uniquely excellent reviews from Chinese state media, Birx then embarked on a months-long, largely clandestine, scorched-earth crusade to orchestrate lockdowns that were as long and strict as possible across the United States. These lockdowns ultimately killed tens of thousands of young Americans while failing to meaningfully slow the spread of the coronavirus everywhere they were tried. By her own admission, she lied, hid data, and manipulated the president’s administration to drive consent for lockdowns that were stricter than the administration realized until finally stepping down soon after breaking her own travel guidance to visit her family for Thanksgiving in November 2020. No sooner had we convinced the Trump administration to implement our version of a two-week shutdown than I was trying to figure out how to extend it. Fifteen Days to Slow the Spread was a start, but I knew it would be just that. I didn’t have the numbers in front of me yet to make the case for extending it longer, but I had two weeks to get them. However hard it had been to get the fifteen-day shutdown approved, getting another one would be more difficult by many orders of magnitude. In October 2020, while visiting Utah, Pottinger admired his handiwork in appointing Birx. Wright reports: Utah had just hit a record high number of new cases. On the ride, an alarm sounded on Pottinger’s cell phone in the saddlebag. It was an alert: “Almost every single county is a high transmission area. Hospitals are nearly overwhelmed. By public health order masks are required in high transmission areas.” Pottinger thought, “Debi must have met with the governor.” 5. Promoting Mass Testing Sometime in February 2020, Pottinger, who has no background in science or public health, appears to have promoted within the White House the idea of mass testing for the coronavirus. Wright recounts: At a Coronavirus Task Force meeting, Redfield announced that the CDC would send a limited number of test kits to five “sentinel cities.” Pottinger was stunned: five cities? Why not send them everywhere? He learned that the CDC makes tests, but not at scale. For that, you have to go to a company like Roche or Abbott—molecular testing powerhouses which have the experience and capacity to manufacture millions of tests a month. Using the standard PCR cycle thresholds of 37 to 40 later provided in the testing guidance published by the WHO, approximately 85% to 90% of these cases were false positives, as later confirmed by The New York Times. 6. Endorsing Remdesivir In March 2020, Pottinger appears to have endorsed use of the drug remdesivir as a possible Covid therapy based on information from a doctor in China. Wright reports: In the early morning of March 4, as Matt Pottinger was driving to the White House, he was on the phone with a source in China, a doctor. Taking notes on the back of an envelope while holding the phone to his ear and navigating the city traffic, Pottinger was excited by all the valuable new information about how the virus was being contained in China. The doctor specifically mentioned the antiviral drug remdesivir. The health outcomes of remdesivir remain unknown, but no benefit to the mortality of its recipients has been proven. 7. Pushing Intelligence to Believe Covid Came From a Lab Pottinger has continually promoted the idea that the coronavirus came from a lab, and specifically prodded the US intelligence community to do the same, regardless of evidence, while urging the global adoption of China’s virus containment measures. In January 2020, Pottinger began directly prodding the CIA to look for evidence that the coronavirus came from a lab in Wuhan, China. As the New York Times disclosed: With his skeptical—some might even say conspiratorial—view of China’s ruling Communist Party, Mr. Pottinger initially suspected that President Xi Jinping’s government was keeping a dark secret: that the virus may have originated in one of the laboratories in Wuhan studying deadly pathogens. In his view, it might have even been a deadly accident unleashed on an unsuspecting Chinese population. During meetings and telephone calls, Mr. Pottinger asked intelligence agencies—including officers at the C.I.A. working on Asia and on weapons of mass destruction—to search for evidence that might bolster his theory. They didn’t have any evidence. Intelligence agencies did not detect any alarm inside the Chinese government that analysts presumed would accompany the accidental leak of a deadly virus from a government laboratory. But Mr. Pottinger continued to believe the coronavirus problem was far worse than the Chinese were acknowledging. Though the CIA did not return any evidence to support his theory, Pottinger has continued to promote the conclusion that the coronavirus leaked from the Wuhan lab, despite quietly admitting that the virus was not man-made or genetically modified. As CBS reported in its interview on February 21, 2021: MARGARET BRENNAN: U.S. intelligence has said COVID, according to wide scientific consensus, was not man-made or genetically modified. You are not in any way alleging that it was, are you?  MATT POTTINGER: No. Much of the initial alarm that Covid might be a supervirus from the Wuhan lab arose because of the frightening videos of Wuhan residents spontaneously dying in January 2020, and because Xi Jinping decided to shut down Wuhan, where the lab was. However, all of those videos were soon proven fake, and US intelligence has confirmed that the virus was spreading in Wuhan by November 2019 at the latest. A growing body of research suggests that the virus did not start either in the Wuhan lab or the Wuhan wet market, and a number of studies from various continents have shown that the virus was also spreading undetected all over the world by November 2019 at the latest, many months before lockdowns began. Covid’s origins remain a mystery, and leading scientists and policymakers were nowhere near transparent enough about their panic that the virus might have come from a lab in early 2020. However, given that the national security community has quietly admitted Covid is not genetically modified, it began spreading undetected globally many months before lockdowns, and it did not cause Wuhan residents to spontaneously die, the question of whether Covid came from the lab would appear to be a moot point from a national security perspective. Furthermore, in my book and elsewhere, there is a growing body of evidence that the CCP used a variety of clandestine means to promote the idea that Covid came from a lab, both to stoke fear and to mislead the western intelligence community from the CCP’s well-documented campaign for global adoption of China’s virus containment measures. Likewise, Pottinger has continually promoted the idea that Covid came from a lab, and prodded the intelligence community to do the same, while urging the adoption of China’s virus containment measures. Pottinger’s credulousness in sharing and promoting scientific concepts and policies from China including asymptomatic spread, universal masking, quarantines, shutdowns, and remdesivir further belies the notion that the fixation on the Wuhan lab serves any legitimate national security interest. In summary, as Deputy National Security Advisor, Matt Pottinger played a singularly outsized role in shaping America’s disastrous response to Covid by taking the following actions: Throughout January 2020, Pottinger unilaterally called White House meetings unbeknownst to those in attendance and breached protocol to ratchet up alarm about the new coronavirus based on information from his own sources in China, despite having no official intelligence to back up his alarmism. Despite having no background in science or public health, beginning in February 2020, Pottinger embarked on a months-long campaign to urge the adoption of universal masking and travel quarantines in response to the coronavirus based on information from his own sources in China. However, there does not appear to be a single picture of Pottinger wearing a mask anywhere on the Internet. Pottinger popularized the idea of shutdowns within the White House using a questionable study on the 1918 flu pandemic comparing outcomes between Philadelphia and St. Louis, a month before this study received any significant attention from media outlets in 2020. Pottinger specifically courted Deborah Birx to serve as White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, who then embarked on a months-long campaign for lockdowns that were as long and strict as possible across the United States. Despite having no background in science or public health, Pottinger appears to have promoted the idea of mass testing for the coronavirus. Pottinger appears to have endorsed use of the drug remdesivir as a possible Covid therapy based on information from a doctor in China. Pottinger has continually promoted the conclusion that the coronavirus came from a lab, and specifically prodded the US intelligence community to do the same, regardless of evidence to support that conclusion, while simultaneously urging the global adoption of China’s virus containment measures. In Pottinger’s speeches, he often discusses the need for more grassroots populism in China. Pottinger may have simply been overly-trusting of his sources, thinking they were the little people in China trying to help their American friends. But why did Pottinger push so hard for sweeping Chinese policies like mask mandates that were far outside his field of expertise? Why did he so often breach protocol? Why seek out and appoint Deborah Birx? Pottinger’s zealousness in endorsing these sweeping policies is even more bewildering because it’s widely known in the intelligence community that the CCP’s primary focus is on information warfare—“superseding their cultural and political values” to those of the west and undermining the western values that Xi Jinping sees as threatening, outlined in his leaked Document No. 9: “independent judiciaries,” “human rights,” “western freedom,” “civil society,” “freedom of the press,” and the “free flow of information on the internet.” Though political conditions in China have deteriorated rapidly, Pottinger is supposed to know that—that’s why he had the Top Secret security clearance and the big job in the National Security Council. In fact, we know how rapidly conditions in China have deteriorated in part because Matt Pottinger is the one who told us. The only reason anyone accepted all this information and guidance from these Chinese sources is that it came through Pottinger. I certainly can’t pass judgment. But from where I’m sitting, it looks like we’ve been struck by a smooth criminal. *  *  * Michael P Senger is an attorney and author of Snake Oil: How Xi Jinping Shut Down the World. Want to support my work? Get the book. Already got the book? Leave a quick review. The New Normal is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. Tyler Durden Sat, 07/23/2022 - 20:30.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytJul 24th, 2022

The night the Lord of the Skies got away

In 1985, US agents had a chance to stop Mexico's top drug lord. Years later, evidence from that night proved valuable in a way no one could predict. Reuters; John Moore/Getty Images; Rachel Mendelson/InsiderOne night in 1985, US agents may have had a chance to stop the rise of Mexico's most powerful drug lord — a chance they quickly gave up without knowing it. But the evidence gathered that night would prove valuable in a way no one could predict. If he'd blinked he might have missed them.The pair of cars were parked window to window, just off the side of Highway 67, nine miles north of the tiny border town of Presidio, Texas. As David Ramirez cruised by in his dun-colored U.S. Border Patrol sedan, the night sky outside the range of headlights was so pitch-black that he could have been forgiven for not spotting the vehicles.    Ramirez guessed that something was up. Slowing the cruiser, he banged a quick U-turn and headed back. "They were on the side of the road, at that time of night, in that area, which was known for drug trafficking," Ramirez recalled. "And there wasn't any other traffic. We were out there in a patrol vehicle and we saw maybe two other vehicles in a three-hour time span."It was May 1985, and Ramirez had only been with the Border Patrol for two and a half years. But at a posting as remote as southwest Texas, where only a handful of agents were stationed at the time, that qualified him to train the new guy. So, in the passenger seat sat his partner for the evening, a trainee agent learning the ropes as they cruised along this ribbon of pebbles, dust, and potholes masquerading as a state highway.As Ramirez maneuvered his patrol car, two pairs of headlights came on, two engines rumbled to life, and two cars peeled out. A late-model pickup truck went first, and, following closely behind, a big-body, white Mercury Grand Marquis. They were headed south, toward Presidio, and toward Mexico.Ramirez spun the cruiser around once again and sped off in pursuit, flashing his red-and-blues to signal the drivers to stop. The two vehicles ignored him.The Mercury wasn't going that fast, 60, maybe 70 miles-per-hour, but it acted as a sort of rearguard, allowing the driver of the pickup truck to put more and more distance between himself and the Border Patrol agents giving chase. This went on for a while, five minutes maybe. Finally, with the pickup truck out of sight, the driver of the Mercury eased to the side of the road and crunched to a stop. Ramirez knew it was a feint designed to let the other driver — and whatever cargo he might be carrying — get away. But he also knew that at the end of that road, just before the international port of entry, was a Border Patrol station. He radioed ahead for agents to be on the lookout, and turned his focus to the Mercury.Carefully opening his door, Ramirez climbed out of the cruiser, unclasped the snap on his holster, and drew his .38-caliber service revolver, holding it at a downward angle. It had been dark for hours, but in these parts even after midnight  in late spring can be mind-bendingly hot. The thermostat hovered around 95 degrees and the night air hung heavy like a blanket. As Ramirez approached the Mercury from the driver-side door, his heart rate quickened. The ambient sounds of the desert night, the buzz of insects and snuffling of wild javelinas, receded into the background. His training — and his survival instinct — kicked in to guide him. The trainee, armed with a shotgun, mirrored the more experienced agent and sidled toward the car from the passenger side. Speaking in Spanish through the rolled down window, the driver had an easy-does-it, friendly manner. With the trainee standing back, Ramirez holstered his revolver and requested the suspect's documents. The driver obliged.One was a border-crossing card, issued by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, that allowed Mexicans living close to the border to cross back and forth for errands and jobs.The other document identified the driver as an agent of the Federal Security Directorate, or DFS, a powerful — and phantasmagorically corrupt — branch of Mexico's federal law enforcement. For Ramirez, this didn't prove the man was a cop. The DFS was notorious for its connections to drug traffickers, and its agents were known to hand out fake badges to the smugglers they worked with. But he couldn't be sure the man wasn't a cop.Ramirez asked the man if he had any weapons, and the driver said no, no guns. But peering into the Marquis, Ramirez could see a box of ammo sitting on the passenger seat, clear as day. He asked again. No weapons? You sure about that?David Ramirez (r); John Moore/Getty Images; Rachel Mendelson/InsiderThe driver made no attempt to keep the lie going and admitted that, sure, he had a small gun in the trunk. On Ramirez' orders, the driver opened the door and walked around to the rear to pop the trunk. The "small gun" turned out to be a loaded AR-15 assault rifle.Ramirez eyed the driver more closely now. He stood about six feet tall, trim and lanky, and dressed like a well-heeled cowboy, with nice boots and well-fitting clothes. Despite everything, he seemed relaxed. Ramirez gave the driver a careful patdown and, finding no other weapons on him, escorted him back to the Border Patrol cruiser and directed him into the back seat, locking him in there but deciding not to place him in handcuffs, given the DFS badge."In any law enforcement, I would say there's a certain courtesy you give to [other] law enforcement," Ramirez told me. "As a young agent, I didn't really know how to deal with it. I was naive."The trainee took the keys to the Mercury and started back to the station at the Presidio-Ojinaga border. Ramirez followed. In the backseat, the driver sat – quiet, calm, no fuss.The man's name, according to his INS card and DFS badge, was Amado Carrillo Fuentes.The Lord of the Skies Within a decade of that traffic stop, Amado would be the most significant drug trafficker in Mexico. His knack for using airplanes to smuggle huge quantities of drugs earned him the nickname "el señor de los cielos," the Lord of the Skies, and, to this day, he is easily the most prolific and most powerful drug lord the country has ever seen. His would be a household name in Mexico and a curse on the lips of U.S. federal agents tasked with fighting the narcotics trade. Another two decades after that, he would feature prominently as the absurdly white-washed protagonist of the Netflix series Narcos: Mexico. But on the night David Ramirez encountered him on that desolate stretch of Highway 67, Amado was just one trafficker among many. Not a nobody, certainly, but his photo wouldn't yet be on any police bulletin boards, nor his name in any newspapers.Amado was then 28 years old, and for years he had found a comfortable niche for himself in the growing drug empire run by his uncle — a fearsome brute named Ernesto "Don Neto" Fonseca — Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, and Rafael Caro Quintero. Like nearly all major drug traffickers of the era — including Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera, who was born around the same time as Amado — they all hailed from the northwestern state of Sinaloa. But they ran their operation out of the city of Guadalajara, and became known as the Guadalajara cartel. As the demand for cocaine began to surge in the late 1970s and exploded in the early 1980s, most cocaine headed to the U.S. from Colombia, across the Caribbean, and into Florida. But as the DEA and the Coast Guard cracked down on that route, the Colombians needed a new way of getting drugs north The syndicate that Don Neto, Félix Gallardo, and Caro Quintero operated, which previously focused on heroin and marijuana and was well positioned to offer an alternative route to their new friends in Colombia, was busy forging contacts with Colombian cocaine suppliers. Within a few years, the Mexican traffickers had become an integral link in the chain that saw cocaine travel by air from its roots high in the Andes to labs in the jungles of Colombia to local smugglers in Mexico, and finally to an eager customer base in the United States. Using the staggering infusion of cash that came along with their new specialty in moving cocaine, the Guadalajara network was able to bring most of the major drug traffickers in Mexico under a unified protection racket negotiated by Félix Gallardo and overseen by the DFS and other federal police agencies.Amado, who was quickly gaining a reputation for being cool-headed and having a talent for forging political connections, played a key role in this transformation of the drug game, coordinating cargo planes, loaded down with hundreds — and later thousands — of kilos of coke, to clandestine air strips in northern Mexico.An act of supreme recklessnessEverything changed, however, just a few months before Amado was stopped in southwest Texas. In February 1985, a group of gunmen snatched a young DEA agent named Enrique "Kiki" Camarena off the streets of Guadalajara, tortured and murdered him along with a pilot who'd worked with the DEA, and dumped their bodies on a distant ranch. Amado Carrillo Fuentes (c). Henry Romero/Reuters; Rachel Mendelson/InsiderThe brutal kidnapping, torture, and murder of a U.S. federal agent was an act of supreme recklessness and the consequences were sweeping. By April, Don Neto and Caro Quintero were in prison, Félix Gallardo was in hiding, and the network they had carefully built and paid a fortune to protect was in disarray, cracking under the pressure of a vengeful United States, and the obligatory, if belated, efforts of Mexican cops. (Just this month, on July 15, Caro Quintero was arrested in Mexico in a joint U.S.-Mexican operation. In 2013, while serving a 40-year sentence for the murders, a Mexican court had ordered Caro Quintero released. U.S. officials immediately sought to re-arrest him, adding him to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, but Caro Quintero went into hiding. During the operation on July 15, 14 marines died when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed outside the city of Los Mochis. A few days after the re-capture of Caro Quintero, in a seemingly unrelated move, Félix Gallardo officially trademarked his own name, apparently for a fashion brand.)Mid-level traffickers who were lucky or savvy enough to escape the dragnet exploited a sudden power vacuum and set up territorial fiefdoms, negotiating new protection pacts with corrupt officials and continuing to traffic all the cocaine, heroin, and marijuana that North Americans could sniff, shoot up?, or smoke.Amado was one of those survivors, but he couldn't stay in Guadalajara. So he headed to Ojinaga, just across the border from Presidio, Texas, where he joined forces with a rough-and-tumble smuggler named Pablo Acosta. The Wild West At the northern extreme of the Chihuahuan Desert and the southwest extreme of Texas, Presidio sits just east of Ojinaga — rather than the proverbial "north of the border," as the Rio Grande runs south there. Located just to the south and east lies Big Bend National Park, and with its canyons, culverts, and deep ravines scored into the earth over millennia, the landscape is such a godsend to smugglers of all kinds that it could almost seem as if it was created for that express purpose.   For as long as the border has divided Presidio and Ojinaga, this remote land has been a causeway for smugglers looking to take advantage of prohibition in the U.S. — first of alcohol, later of marijuana and heroin, and finally cocaine — and of Mexico's booming black market for illegally imported commercial goods that resulted from the country's high tariffs.David Ramirez, a native of of El Paso, arrived in Presidio in 1982, shortly after joining the Border Patrol. He could almost count his fellow agents on two hands, and together they were tasked with patrolling not only the port of entry, with its wooden, two lane bridge crossing the river, but also the vast desert landscape stretching out on either side. (It was still many years before the Border Patrol would morph into the veritable army that polices the border today, with its drones, seismic motion sensors, and agents more numerous than the armies of more than a dozen small nations.) "We often had no radio comms, and all of Big Bend [National Park] to deal with," Ramirez recalled. "It was like the Wild West."Ramirez and his fellow agents may have had the might of the U.S. government at their backs, but down in Presidio, with the drug trade in overdrive, they were tilting at windmills.It wasn't like they could rely much on the Mexican authorities across the border either. The dirty and not so well-kept secret of the drug trade in Mexico is that it is inextricably tied to and controlled by extra-official protection rackets run by corrupt members of the country's business, political, and judicial elite. Just like every other lucrative smuggling corridor along the border, Ojinaga was controlled by a local boss. For much of the 1970s, that person had been Manuel Carrasco; when he eventually ran afoul of too many people he fled town and with time — and after a few shootouts — control passed to an up-and-coming trafficker named Pablo Acosta. 'He's their guy'According to the journalist Terrence Poppa, who chronicled the rise and fall of Acosta in his 1991 book "Drug Lord," Acosta came to power in Ojinaga in the late 1970s or early 1980s, and by 1982 he was either directly involved with, or charging a tax on, all illegal merchandise flowing across the border.Acosta, like Amado, was treated to a sympathetic portrayal in Narcos: Mexico. The actor Gerardo Taraceno plays Acosta up as a sentimental, old-school cowboy — reckless and violent at times, sure, but living by a code of honor and harboring a sentimental streak to boot. This flies in the face of all available evidence. Poppa — and a number of sources I spoke with who either investigated Acosta or did business with him — said that the real-life Acosta was a brutal thug, quick to mete out violence and shocking cruelty against anyone he saw as a threat. He shot men down in the street in broad daylight, subjected people to brutal torture, and was said to have once strapped a rival to the back of his pickup truck and dragged him to his bloody, horrible death. And as the years wore on, Acosta grew ever more erratic, thanks in part to his growing number of enemies and also to his fondness for basuco, a crude cocaine paste that he sprinkled into cigarettes and smoked around the clock.He was, in other words, the polar opposite of Amado. Little is known of Amado and Acosta's working relationship, one the young face of the drug trade to come and the other the proud, battle-scarred avatar of what came before. Amado was there not to do Acosta's bidding but to look after the interests of his uncle's syndicate in Guadalajara, which was increasingly coordinating shipments of cocaine on behalf of the Colombians and moving it through Ojinaga. David Ramirez (r); Rachel Mendelson/InsiderOne player who had the opportunity — or misfortune — to see that dynamic up close was Don Henry Ford, Jr, a former drug trafficker working in the region in the '70s and '80s."Amado Carrillo was never working for Pablo Acosta, not for one fucking day," Ford told me. "He represents the big guys down there, the cartel, he's their guy."When Pablo Acosta was finally gunned down in a raid by Mexican police in the tiny village of his birth in 1987, rumors immediately proliferated that Amado had paid a corrupt police commander $1 million to take him out. Unrepentant cowboyIf Ramirez that night in 1985 saw the amiable, confident face that Amado showed when being detained, Don Henry Ford Jr., two years prior, saw something closer to the real Amado — the careful balance of friendly and ruthless with which Amado gained the trust of business partners and government benefactors, while rooting out potential traitors and rivals.Ford grew up on a Texas ranch a few hundred miles north of the border, but as his family's business started to fail in the late 1970s he began to drift down to Mexico, making trips back and forth across the border in search of easy money and unlimited weed."You may consider one side Mexico and one the U.S., but it ain't either. It's the border," Ford told me recently when I reached him by phone. "People in Presidio and Ojinaga have more in common with each other than with anyone in Washington or Mexico City."By the time I talked to him, Ford had been out of the drug game for decades. The beginning of the end had come in 1986 when he was arrested in Texas but then managed to escape and spend a year or so as an honest-to-god fugitive outlaw, laying low in a tiny communal ejido south of the border, guarding multi-ton shipments of Colombian weed in a cave with just a rifle by his side. In 1987, he was caught while moving about a hundred pounds of weed in southern Texas and ended up serving seven years of a 15-year sentence before being released on good behavior — after which he spent another few years under tight restrictions, pissing in a cup for his parole officer as many as three times a week. As much as he hated giving up those years to prison and parole, Ford knows how lucky he was: less than a year after his second arrest, in 1988, the US eliminated parole for federal offenses and introduced mandatory minimums for large-scale drug trafficking. If he'd been busted any later, he could have spent the rest of his life behind bars, as did many drug traffickers — particularly Black and Brown people — sentenced amid the drastic ramping up of the U.S. war on drugs.He put that life behind him — raised kids, raised cattle, and even put aside some land and a business to pass on to his children. But he still has the spark of an outlaw in his voice. Even his email address, which includes the words "unrepentant cowboy," makes clear that he remains resolutely nonconformist. The south Texas ranch where Ford spends his days is so remote that his cell phone barely gets a signal. When we spoke, his voice crackled out of earshot every time he moved in the wrong direction or when he sat down.Ford had a rather haphazard start as a drug trafficker, running into some greedy cops on his first trip to Mexico who were happy to relieve him of his seed money and send him packing. But before long he found a knack for the business, and developed a lucrative operation trading with a loose network of marijuana growers and wholesalers, trafficking hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars in weed at a time.He did most of his business in the state of Coahuila, east of Acosta's territory in Chihuahua, where he could work without having to deal with Acosta, who he knew by reputation to be a fickle and violent man. Years later, Ford would find that out firsthand, when he was attacked by men he believes to have been working for Acosta, and interrogated at length by a man he believes to be Acosta himself. He believes it to have been Acosta because he was blindfolded, and Ford is not one to say things he's not 100% sure of. (I had to take Ford's word on this incident, as there's no record of it aside from Ford's memory of the experience, and Acosta is not around to confirm it.)But before his near-death encounter with Acosta, it was in Coahuila, in the home of his main connect, a guy named Oscar, that he first met Amado around 1983.Their first meeting was just in passing; Amado was one of several cowboy-looking guys milling about during a visit to the home of his partner, where Ford was visiting on one of his many trips south to score wholesale loads of weed. Amado was dressed, like the rest of the guys, in wide-cut polyester pants and the boots popular with Mexican cowboys with a high, slanted Spanish riding heel."He didn't look like anybody extraordinary at all, he looked like Oscar was giving him some work on the farm," Ford told me. "He wasn't wearing a bunch of gold jewelry and shit that would give away the sense of being wealthy. His boots were worn."For most of his career, Ford had stuck to marijuana. And even in the early years of the cocaine boom he said he could see the effect that the introduction of cocaine was having on the business of smuggling. Guys he had known to be sworn pacifists motivated by peace and love as much as money, began carrying weapons, acting all jittery."All of a sudden it was like Miami Vice," he recalled. But he wasn't so altruistic as to turn down good business, and it soon became clear to him that the real money was in cocaine. He wanted in. So he made some inquiries and was told the person to talk to was Amado — that quiet guy in cowboy boots he'd met once a while back.The meeting happened sometime in 1983, just Ford, his cousin, his partner Oscar, and Amado in a motel room in the city of Torreon, in the southern reaches of Coahuila. It started off well enough — like many meetings between drug traffickers, it was mostly a chance to size each other up. Amado brought with him some of the product he had on hand, and for a few hours, the wirey Texan and the Sinaloan trafficker hung out, drank, sniffed cocaine, and chatted pleasantly. Just as Ramirez would observe later, Ford recalled Amado as a smooth customer, calm and collected but friendly. Even a few drinks and a few lines deep, Amado kept his wits about him."He did a lot more listening than he did talking," Ford said.Ford liked that, and he told Amado that he didn't have any interest in working with a hothead like Acosta."I told him 'If you're like that, I don't wanna do business with you,'" Ford said. "I'm interested in fuckin' moving some drugs and making some money."Ford and Amado didn't make a deal that night, but Ford said they agreed to "something tentative." When it was time for Amado to go, but he left the remaining coke as a gift, more where that came from, and Ford and his cousin set about enjoying it.Rachel Mendelson/InsiderA few hours later, as they were trying to sleep off their coke jitters, there came a series of thunderous knocks on the door, bam-bam-bam, and chaos descended on them. A team of heavily armed men rushed into the hotel room. They wore no uniforms, but they moved with such trained precision that Ford immediately took them for cops of some sort. Over the next few hours, he said, they questioned the pair relentlessly."This motherfucker did this to see if I was a cop," Ford said. "He didn't trust us, and decided he was gonna find out who we were."He never saw Amado again.200 miles from El PasoTwo years or so after Ford met him in Torreon, Amado sat patiently in the Border Patrol station in Presidio with agent David Ramirez. The other driver, the one Amado had slowed down to let escape, had made it to the point of entry. His car was clean and, after showing his ID — along with a DFS badge like Amado's — the agents who spoke to him had nothing to charge him with, and let him cruise back into Mexico. (In an interview, Ramirez told me ruefully that he had written the man's name down in his notebook but later lost it, and the question of the man's identity piques his curiosity to this day.)As for Amado, Ramirez may not have caught him trafficking drugs in flagrante, nor had he proven any collusion with the driver of the pickup truck. But there was the AR-15 he'd found in the trunk. For a nonresident of the United States, it was a serious crime to be in possession of a loaded assault rifle. If charges were brought, it could have earned him a few solid years in a federal prison. No one knew it then, but that could have put a serious crimp in Amado's upward trajectory. But that wasn't the purview of the Border Patrol. If they were going to hold Amado, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms — 200 miles away in El Paso — would have to get involved. If they agreed, someone would have to come in from El Paso, a four-hour drive away, bring Amado back, and then take him to magistrate court in Pecos, another two-hour drive from El PasoRamirez made the call, and waited. In the meantime, in case Amado would be charged, Ramirez fingerprinted the suspect, and took a couple mugshots.By now it was around three in the morning. Amado had been pretty quiet as they drove into Presidio, but sitting in the Border Patrol station, he started to open up a bit more, chatting with Ramirez, even boasting a bit as they made small talk to kill time."The guy, once again, had not a worry in the world," Ramirez said. "Real easy guy, and you know it was strange, he offered a lot of info, like that his uncle was Don Neto and that Caro Quintero was his partner."It might seem strange that an experienced heavy in the drug trade would brag about his connections to a well-known trafficker like Don Neto and the notorious killer of a federal agent like Caro Quintero, but the code of silence only applies to the saps at the bottom of the totem pole, or to the civilians ensnared in the web of violence, corruption, and extortion that funnels money up to the bosses. For the guys making the real money, the relationship with law enforcement is a lot more fluid, with a lot more give and take. Perhaps Amado saw an opportunity to cultivate a contact, pocket a card that he could play at a later date. Or maybe he just knew that no ATF agents were getting their asses out of bed at three in the morning and driving all the way to Presidio and back to book him. Much more likely was that he'd be back in Mexico by sun-up no matter what he said to Ramirez.An hour passed, and then Ramirez got word from the Bureau that they weren't going to bother with this one. Coming all that distance to Presidio, it was too much trouble. So he let Amado go. Ramirez held on to the box of ammo, but Amado drove back into Mexico a free man with the illegal AR-15 in his trunk.'You can't live in what-ifs'Looking back to that night in Presidio in 1985, It's hard to fathom how it was possible that agents of the federal government had one of the top drug traffickers in Mexico in their custody and didn't even know it. But according to Ramirez, that was par for the course back then. "At that time, in that area, there was no intelligence collection. It was very primitive," he said. "We were patrol, we weren't really trained for intelligence gathering. Unfortunately that was the attitude back then."Ramirez doesn't pester himself much wondering how things might have gone if the ATF had bothered to haul Amado in. "He coulda done some time, sure," Ramirez replied when I pushed the point. "But you can't live in what-ifs."After that night in 1985, Ramirez would see Amado from time to time around town on the other side of the border. Ramirez would mostly avert his gaze so as not to make eye contact with the man whose night he'd ruined. He saw him at the border crossing too, and from the way Amado carried himself there, Ramirez said he could tell Amado had pull among Mexican officials."He was a charismatic kinda guy," Ramirez recalled. "He made friends with the inspectors there on the U.S. side, the Customs inspectors and the immigration inspectors, invited them to his ranch and they would go over and come back and tell about the cookouts and the time they had." One of the inspectors even invited Ramirez to the party. Ramirez politely declined.Whatever scrutiny caused him to flee Guadalajara did not appear to have followed Amado to Ojinaga, according to Ramirez. "He wasn't hiding! I mean he was out in the open," Ramirez said with some bemusement.In the years that followed, Amado continued to plot his deliberate, careful rise to power. That evening he spent with Ramirez would go down as his only known brush with US authorities — or at least the only one in which he was a suspected criminal rather than a guy asking Customs inspectors over for lunch. Alongside other major traffickers of his generation, like "El Chapo" in Sinaloa and Sonora and the Arellano-Félix brothers in Tijuana, Amado expertly navigated every power vacuum that presented itself — or triggered power vacuums himself. By the late 1980s Amado had moved his base of operations to Ciudad Juárez, the sprawling metropolis that sits across the river from El Paso, where the multiple ports of entry allow a far greater amount of train, truck, and car traffic — and contraband — than Ojinaga ever could. It was there that Amado truly came into his own, controlling organized crime in the city so tightly that normal, everyday street crime became a rarity, lest criminals incur the wrath of the henchmen tasked with keeping things quiet and orderly. David Ramirez had left Presidio as well, transferring to his hometown of El Paso, where he began doing undercover work investigating trafficking networks alongside Mexican cops. He saw firsthand the control that Amado exercised in the city.He even saw Amado once. Ramirez was in Juárez, eating breakfast with some Mexican colleagues, including a federal police commander, when who walks in but Amado, surrounded by a swarm of burly, heavily armed guards. Amado made a beeline for their table and greeted the commander warmly as Ramirez studied his food and preyed that he wouldn't be recognized. "I thought 'oh shoot, this is the guy I arrested!'" Ramirez recalled. "Everybody says they're looking for him, and he's right there!" Once again, though, Ramirez's hands were tied: no matter how much the U.S. might want its hands on Amado, he was out of reach in Mexico, where his massive web of bribes and political connections made him largely untouchable. Still, even if Ramirez's actions did nothing to stop Amado's rise to power, it wasn't all for naught.The Lord of the Skies is deadOn July 3, 1997, Amado Carrillo Fuentes entered Hospital Ángeles Santa Mónica in the ritzy Mexico City neighborhood of Polanco. Amado had had a rough time of it recently, and it would have shown, his voracious cocaine habit and relentless workload taking their toll on his face and his increasingly heavy frame. The hospital was under heavy security, with an entire wing shut down for the guest of honor's privacy. Reuters; Rachel Mendelson/InsiderAmado was by now the undisputed public face of the drug trade in Mexico, with mansions all over the country and countless men doing his bidding. Being the boss is great for a guy like Amado, but not if everyone knows it. In Juárez he and his henchmen had worked hard to keep his name out of the papers, intimidating and threatening journalists and even discouraging singers from composing narcocorridos, the norteño ballads penned in honor of prominent drug traffickers that form an important role in the folk history of organized crime in Mexico. But when you amass power and wealth like Amado had, you can only remain in the shadows for so long. Things had really taken a turn for Amado that February, when one of his most important guardian angels — General Jesús Héctor Gutierrez Rebollo, Mexico's drug czar  — was arrested and publicly accused of collaboration with Amado. Just a few months earlier, Guttierrez Rebollo had been feted in Washington, described by his American counterpart as "a guy of absolute, unquestioned integrity." So it was with a deeply embarrassed vengeance that the attention of both governments now trained itself on Amado.Amado knew as well as anyone that a drug lord's days are numbered as soon as he becomes a liability to the government. By multiple accounts, Amado started looking for an exit almost immediately. He bought property in Chile, moved money abroad, and was even rumored to have approached contacts in the government to offer a massive bribe in exchange for his freedom to retire in anonymity.On July 3, he checked in under a fake name at the hospital in Polanco to undergo plastic surgery to alter his features. (Or, it was rumored later, for a bit of liposuction. It may have been both.)He was never seen alive again.The next day, July 4, about two miles away from the hospital in the similarly posh Lomas Altas neighborhood, Fourth of July festivities were underway at the fortress-like mansion that was home to the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. Diplomats and dignitaries, bureaucrats and spooks were spread out across the lawn, mingling with their spouses. Among the revelers were a handful of agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, who, as Amado might have suspected, had been racing to pin down Amado before he could vanish.Their day off came to a sudden end when one of the DEA agents got a call. According to his source, Amado had succumbed to an overdose on the operating table and the body was headed for burial in his home state of Sinaloa.The call kicked off a furious race by U.S. and Mexican officials alike desperate to confirm the drug lord's death. Rumors were swirling that it was all a lie, that Amado couldn't possibly be dead, and to quiet this talk Mexican officials would a few days later take the extraordinary step of laying out Amado's body — puffy by now; his skin a ghastly grey-green — for a viewing at a government building in Mexico City, inviting journalists to show his corpse to the world.Meanwhile, a young intelligence officer for the DEA named Larry Villalobos was racking his brains to think of a way to confirm that the body was Amado's.Then it hit him: the fingerprints. Villalobos had worked for a while as a fingerprint technician with the FBI before joining the DEA, and, prior to his posting in Mexico City, he had been stationed at the DEA field office in El Paso, where he'd helped build a dossier on Amado. As part of his research, he had learned of Amado's brief detention by Border Patrol agent David Ramirez back in 1985, and he knew Ramirez had taken Amado's mugshot and fingerprints. Villalobos made some calls, and it wasn't long before Ramirez found himself awoken by the ring of his telephone. Amado may not have been worth getting out of bed for when Ramirez called the ATF back in 1985, but he sure was now.."They called me about 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, wanting to know if I still had his prints," Ramirez recalled rather matter-of-factly. "So I dug 'em up and I sent 'em to him."In Mexico City, Villalobos received a fax of the prints and headed to the morgue to compare them with those belonging to the corpse.They were a match.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJul 22nd, 2022

June Southwest Border Apprehensions: Record High

June Southwest Border Apprehensions: Record High By Steven Kopits of Princeton Policy Advisors US Customs and Border Protection reported 191,898 apprehensions at the US southwest border for June. This is comfortably a record for the month, almost twice the pre-Biden record of 115,000 set in June 2000 under the Clinton administration, and even 13,000 above last year's 177,000, a record for June at the time. At the same time, apprehensions were right on our forecast, and indeed, apprehensions have been following our forecast closely for the first half of the year, suggesting that border conditions are largely unchanged since the Biden administration took office. Illegal immigration from traditional sources, notably Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, has been below that of last year since March. We presume that such immigrants are well informed about labor market conditions in the US, as they have a wide variety of sources within the US to direct them to job openings. Migrants may be perceiving softness in demand for their labor. At the same time, a key source of border crossing growth has come from the 'Other' category, that is, countries historically not a major source of illegal immigration. In March-June 2019, for example, an average of 13,000 migrants from 'Other' countries were arrested crossing the border monthly. In the same period this year, the average was 100,000 per month. One can imagine all sorts of legacy problems arising from the growth of 'Other' apprehensions. They will create a pipeline of illegal immigration that will long outlast the Biden administration. Our fiscal year 2022 forecast for southwest border apprehensions remains unchanged at 2.1 million, by far an annual record and nearly 500,000 higher than the previous record set by the Biden administration last year. Inadmissibles, those presenting themselves at official crossing points without appropriate documentation, have fallen sharply, with most of the decline coming from the 'Other' category. These were, in all likelihood, disproportionately Ukrainians fleeing the war, with their numbers declining as the situation has stabilized there. Overall, the situation at the border is largely unchanged. The Open Borders policy remains in place. I would note that, were we to use a market-based visa system, the US could have booked $30 bn in visa revenues this year from those otherwise entering illegally during the Biden administration. The border would effectively be closed to illegal immigration; all those working in the country would be legal and willing to return home; and these 53 migrants would still be alive. Tyler Durden Mon, 07/18/2022 - 19:15.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJul 18th, 2022

Buchanan: Latest Symptoms Of A Disintegrating Nation

Buchanan: Latest Symptoms Of A Disintegrating Nation Authored by Pat Buchanan, In Stephen Vincent Benet’s “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” the tale is told that if you approached Webster’s grave and called out his name, a voice would boom in reply, “Neighbor, how stands the Union?” “Then you better answer the Union stands as she stood, rock-bottomed and copper-sheathed, one and indivisible, or he’s liable to rear right out of the ground.” Today, it would be untruthful to answer to the soul of Webster that our Union is “rock-bottomed and copper-sheathed, one and indivisible.” For the divisions among us replicate those Webster witnessed in his last years before the War Between the States. A Gallup survey reports the lowest figure ever recorded, 38%, for that share of our population that proclaims itself to be “extremely proud” to be Americans. Another 27% say they are “very proud.” But the share of our people who say they are only “moderately proud” or a “little proud” or “not at all proud” to be Americans adds up to a third of the nation. In the past, those “extremely” or “very proud” to be Americans used to average 80% of the country. Now it is down to 65%. To love one’s country, Edmund Burke said, one’s country ought to be lovely. It would appear that 1 in 3 Americans, more than 100 million of us, no longer see our country as truly lovely. While patriotism and pride in U.S. citizenship and in being part of this national community are eroding, other problems are being revealed by public surveys. In a new AP-NORC poll, 85% of all Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, with 92% of Republicans believing this to be true and 78% of Democrats agreeing. On July 5, a Monmouth poll reported that President Joe Biden’s approval rating had sunk to 36%, with 59% disapproving of his presidency. As for our Democratic-led Congress, 15% of all Americans approved of its performance, with 85% disapproving. Another Gallup survey from July 5 reported that this last year has seen a fall in public confidence in every one of 16 major U.S. institutions. The institutions in which Americans now place the least confidence are the presidency, newspapers, the criminal justice system, big business, television news and, at rock bottom, Congress. Only 7% of Americans have great confidence or quite a bit of confidence in Capitol Hill. The institutions that enjoy the greatest measures of confidence - though here, too, the levels are receding like Lake Mead - are small business, the military, the police, the medical system and religious institutions. That small business is the most trusted of American institutions suggests that Biden’s attack on the alleged greed of gas station owners may not be politically wise. American institutions that tend to be conservative — small business, the military, cops — are where the American people repose the greatest confidence. Journalistic institutions — newspapers and TV news — both largely liberal, appear to be ones in which the nation reposes the lowest levels of confidence and the greatest deposits of distrust. Why are Americans so down on their country and disapproving of its direction, and of their president who is leading them? Surely, the pandemic, which has taken a million lives in 30 months and infects 10 times as many of us today as it did a year ago, with the death toll roughly the same now as then, is a primary cause. The crisis at the Mexican border where a quarter of a million illegal migrants enter our country, uninvited, every month, with cartel mules ferrying the fentanyl and other narcotics that kill tens of thousands of young Americans every year is surely another. Then there is the worst inflation in 40 years and the record rise in the price of food and fuel for America’s families. Also, since the first of the year, there have been an average of 10 “mass shootings” a week, where a criminal gunman wounds or kills four or more victims. Major atrocities like Buffalo, New York; Uvalde, Texas; and Highland Park, Illinois, dominate the news for days. And each weekend seems to bring a new casualty report of the dead and wounded from Chicago’s streets that reminds us of the early days of Vietnam. Then there is the poisonous character of American politics. In the 2016 campaign, Hillary Clinton famously described half of the supporters of Donald Trump as a “basket of deplorables.” They are, said Hillary, “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic … irredeemable … bigots” all. Following the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade and sending the issue of abortion back to the states for decision, the term “fascist” has been applied by the left to its right-to-life opponents. Which makes one wonder. If Republicans capture two or three dozen House seats in this fall’s midterm elections, would that constitute a triumph of American fascism? And how does the left argue that we should come together and stand on “common ground” with folks such as those Clinton describes? Tyler Durden Mon, 07/11/2022 - 19:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJul 11th, 2022